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An Inside Look at Consulting, 2014 - Université Paris 13

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WELCOME
Welcome
So you think you may be interested in becoming a consultant... but how well do you really understand
the industry? Do you want to work in strategy, operations or technology consulting? Is a career in
consulting the right choice for you? Do you know how to tackle a case interview? And do you think you
have the necessary skills and attributes to become a successful consultant?
It can all be a bit overwhelming, especially if you don’t know where to start. That’s where we come
in! This guide will tell you everything you need to know about consulting: from the ins and outs of the
industry, to the different types of consulting, to what the everyday work of a consultant involves, and
practical tips and advice for consulting applications and case interviews.
We’ve compiled all of these juicy bits in one handy place so that you can make sure a job in consulting
is right for you, and also ensure that you only apply to jobs that you want. Securing a job in consulting
is not easy, but with a little help from Inside Buzz you’ll have all the tools necessary to wow in your
interview and land the job you’re after.
Good luck!
The Inside Buzz editorial team
This guide is brought to you in partnership with
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Copyright В© 2013-2014 Inside Buzz Ltd. All rights reserved.
No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted by any form or by any means, electronic or
mechanical, for any purpose, without the express written permission of Inside Buzz Ltd.
Whilst every care has been taken in the compilation of this publication, Inside Buzz Ltd. makes no claims
as to the accuracy and reliability of the information contained within and disclaims all warranties.
Inside Buzz, and the Inside Buzz logo are trademarks of Inside Buzz Ltd.
For information about permission to reproduce selections from this book, contact:
Inside Buzz Ltd,
14 Bateman Street, London, W1D 3AG
+44 (0)20 7434 3600
[email protected]
www.insidebuzz.co.uk
An Inside Look at Consulting, 2014 Edition.
was designed by Lucie Mauger, www.luciemauger.co.uk.
Inside Buzz Contacts
Thomas Nutt, Inside Buzz Founder and CEO
Tom McDermott, Head of Editorial
Printed in the UK
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Part 1: Consulting explained
What is Consulting?.................................................................................................................
Types of Consulting Firms........................................................................................................
Choosing the Right Firm...........................................................................................................
Is Consulting Right for You?......................................................................................................
Part 2: Getting hired
Tailoring your CV to Consulting................................................................................................
Consulting Applications and Interviews...................................................................................
A Closer Look at Case Interviews.............................................................................................
Case Interviews: What’s the Point?.........................................................................................
Tips for the Case Interview......................................................................................................
Case Frameworks.....................................................................................................................
Analysing Financial Statements................................................................................................
Part 3: On the Job
What Do Consultants Do?........................................................................................................
Consulting Job Descriptions.....................................................................................................
Types of Consulting Projects....................................................................................................
Spirit of Africa: My Favourite Case at BCG...............................................................................
Q&A With an Associate at BCG - Sam......................................................................................
Q&A With an Associate at BCG - Tyler......................................................................................
Life as a Consultant at CHP Consulting.....................................................................................
Life at CHP Consulting: My Mumbai Secondment Experience.................................................
My Consulting Career - Bain and Company..............................................................................
CONTENTS
CONTENTS
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09
13
15
21
24
26
29
32
34
37
41
44
46
49
51
53
56
58
61
Part 4: what comes next
Consulting Exit Options............................................................................................................ 65
Glossary
A Guide to Consulting Buzzwords............................................................................................ 69
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How can you lift the mug off the surface of a table, using only the balloon?
(You may not touch the mug with your hands.)
AN IT CONSULTANCY FOR PEOPLE WITH GOOD IDEAS.
Super geek, people person or business brain?
CHP employs graduates and professionals from many disciplines. Do you
have what it takes to be a top Java programmer? Do you make managing
complex projects look easy? Could your ideas make leading companies
more profitable?
CHP is established in the UK, US, Asia-Pacific and throughout Europe. You
will be based in our London City office and go on to work in a variety of
roles on projects with some of the world’s leading leasing and asset
finance companies.
We will train you so that you’re able to work on any part of our business
change projects, building and implementing our industry-leading software.
You will have an outstanding academic background including a 2:1 degree
or better and a minimum of 320 UCAS points. You will be curious, have a
logical mind, and be confident, ambitious and ready for a challenge.
Starting salary is ВЈ35k and you will join one of our graduate intakes
throughout the year. Find out more about opportunities with CHP
Consulting at www.chp.co.uk/careers.
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PART 1: CONSULTING EXPLAINED
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If you were to stop Joe Bloggs in the street and ask him
what a consultant is, you’re unlikely to receive a clear,
accurate and comprehensive answer. In fact, relatively
few people outside the consulting industry could
convey what a consultant is, let alone what they do.
advice on pricing, marketing, new product strategy,
IT implementation and government policy as well
as to provide a number of other problem solving
services. The typical client of a consultant is a senior
executive whose team is too focussed on day-to-day
WHAT IS CONSULTING?
What is consulting?
“Anyone who’s ever given their two
cents worth on any issue has, in fact,
acted as a consultant.”
Most of the uncertainty can be attributed to the
ambiguity of the term consultant. To take this issue to
dizzyingly pedantic heights, anyone who’s ever been
consulted on any issue has, in fact, acted as a consultant
– whether this be giving your two cents worth in a
meeting or warning a friend against the purchase of
a skin-tight, leopard-print onesie. In the professional
domain though, consultants are problem solvers who
are hired by companies for their expertise and outside
perspective; this includes fashion consultants, IT
consultants, design consultants, etc. With a whole slew
of different professions and industries adopting the
term, it’s unsurprising poor old Joe Bloggs can’t give
us a straight answer! While there are a wide variety
of consultants operating in a number of different
fields, the kind of consultants normally referred to in
the context of graduate recruitment can broadly be
described as management consultants.
Management consultants provide advice for a fee.
In layman’s terms: consultants are problem solvers
for hire. Companies are often too busy (or unable) to
solve their business problems on their own. In these
cases they may seek the expertise and impartiality of
a management consulting firm.
Consulting firms sell business advisory services to
all kinds of corporations, governments and nonprofit organisations. A firm may be called in to offer
running of the business to consider any long-term
strategic problems that the company may be facing.
In these cases, consultants can offer a solution from
a perspective free from bias and unclouded by the
company’s internal politics.
“Management consultants provice advice
for a fee: they work as problem solvers
for hire.”
Consultancies vary in focus: they can be structured by
topic, type of problem or industry, with specialisations
ranging from the relatively broad to the extremely
niche. Some consulting firms specialise in giving advice
on management and strategy, while others, such as
Accenture, are known as technology specialists. Some
firms concentrate on a specific industry area, such as
financial services or retail, while others, such as BCG,
are more like gigantic one-stop shops with divisions
that dispense advice on everything from top-level
strategy to saving money on staples and paper clips.
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Many strategy consulting firms are considered
generalist as they offer services in a range of different
disciplines, such as human resources, information
technology (IT) and outsourcing. They offer advice
to companies on specific projects, using experts in
the field to deliver benefits. In the UK, these include
companies such as BCG, McKinsey and Bain &
Company. There are also smaller boutique or niche
firms that specialise in one or a few very particular
areas of consulting.
However, putting size and type of firm aside, all
consultancies have one thing in common: they run on
the power of their people and are always looking for
analytical problem solvers to add to their ranks.
“Identifying problems is often the
easy part. The tricky bit is finding the
solutions, and a cost effective way of
implementing them.”
If consulting sounds like the career for you, then great!
But don’t start filling out your online applications just
yet. Like most things, consulting is easier said than
done. Identifying the problem is often the easy part
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– the companies themselves will most likely know
where their shortfalls lie. The tricky bit is finding
solutions to these problems as well as a cost effective
way of implementing them, practically and with as
little disruption to the client as possible.
Still interested? Well you’re not alone. Management
consulting is one of the most popular career choices
for graduates and this is hardly surprising considering
the industry’s reputation for high salaries, jet-setting
and five-star hotels.
However the reality of consulting is actually somewhat
different and, for those who subscribe to the
aforementioned �Hollywood’ version of consulting,
the truth of the matter, that the life of a consultant
is a little less glamorous, may come as a bit of a
disappointment.
But don’t be discouraged! Consulting still offers
numerous benefits to graduates such as interesting,
varied and challenging work, the opportunity to work
with highly creative and intelligent people and some
of the highest salaries around.
And remember, for those who put in the work,
champagne, exciting assignments and five-star hotels
are always a possibility further down the line.
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The term �consulting’ is an umbrella that spans a
wide array of different operations and activities.
As such, firms operating under this umbrella can
be broadly categorised into one of a handful of
firm-types. Each classification has its own distinct
characteristics and offers differing work and
career prospects. Some firms are a little harder to
classify than others, but broadly speaking, every
consultancy will fall into one of the following
categories:
Strategy Consulting
Working with a client’s senior management,
strategy consultants help create and develop a
company’s strategy and long-term plans. More
than just pointing fingers and identifying strategic
problems, strategy consulting firms aim to provide
practical and cost effective solutions that can
generate bottom-line results and improve a client’s
competitiveness. In addition, once a problem is
identified, strategy consultancies don’t just take the
money and run, they assist in the implementation
of their suggestions.
Depending on the industry and the client’s
shortcomings, strategy consultants can find
themselves working on a range of different
projects. These could be anything from analysing
why an online retailer is losing market share
to helping a fizzy drinks manufacturer rebrand
and price its products for a new market. Leading
strategy consultancies, such as Boston Consulting
Group, McKinsey & Company, Bain & Company
and Roland Berger may evaluate a company’s value
for potential acquirers or assist a brand in staying
abreast of changes in consumer spending.
Operations Consulting
If a strategy consultant’s remit is to set a firm’s longterm goals, an operations consultant is charged
with making sure those targets are met. Evaluating
IS STRATEGY CONSULTING FOR YOU?
Pros:
• Relatively small project teams allow
you to make your mark and provide the
opportunity to shine early in your career.
• Excellent opportunities for international
travel.
• Broad exposure to different sectors,
industries and functions.
• Early contact with partners and
directors.
TYPES OF CONSULTING FIRMS
TYPES OF CONSULTING FIRMS
Cons:
• Many firms operate a stringent up-orout policy.
• Heavy workload – even for consulting!
• International travel is an intrinsic part
of the job. While novel at first, this can
quickly become an onerous chore that
takes you away from your loved ones.
the inner workings of its clients, operation
consultancies will fine tune operations to enhance
the overall efficiency of a company.
Beginning by examining the workflow structure
of a business, operation consultants will then go
on to look at areas such as production processes,
distribution, order fulfilment and customer service.
At a more granular level, the investigation could
cover anything from a client’s resource allocation
to its customer service response times.
Due to the intrinsic link between strategy and
operations consulting, the majority of the major
firms now offer their clients both services. Firms
sitting at the top of the operations tree include
Accenture, Capgemini and Deloitte.
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Is Operations Consulting for you?
Pros:
• New-hires are eased in gently as part of
a large team.
• Lots of potential to build up contacts
in Blue-Chip companies which is useful
should you decide to change career in
the future.
• No need to be tied to one specialty for
your whole career.
• Less international travel – can spend
more time with family and friends.
Cons:
• Bureaucracy, rules and regulations can
get in the way of productive work.
• The route to promotion is nailed down
and doesn’t change even for the best
employees.
• Larger teams means that you’re less
likely to be working with executives
and directors, liaising with middlemanagement is more usual.
Information Technology Consulting
Information technology consulting has more
than its fair share of alternative names. It can be
known as IT advisory, computer consulting, tech
consulting, business technology services, or the
much simpler IT consulting. But no matter the
designation, IT consultants advise their clients how
best to leverage information technology to the
advantage of their company.
So it’s computers basically? Well, not quite…
In addition to providing advice to clients on how
best to use IT at their firm, IT consultancies design
customer software, provide network solutions and
test current systems for efficiency. In summary, IT
consultancies offer the full package; they advise,
estimate, design, manage, implement, deploy and
administer IT systems on a client’s behalf.
IT consultants may be called in to test an
organisation’s vulnerability to hackers; a service
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which is increasingly in demand due to the advent
of subversive hacker groups over the last few
years. Common tasks an IT consultancy may be
asked to perform also include troubleshooting a
company’s software installation or even overseeing
a company’s upgrade to the latest version of
Microsoft Office. The industry’s most prominent
players include Accenture, Capgemini, Computer
Sciences Corporation (CSC) and Electronic Data
Systems (EDS).
Human Resources Consulting
�A company is only as good as its people.’ It’s the
belief in this adage that has led to the emergence
of human resources consulting. By investing in its
people, an organisation aims to maximise the value
of its employees and place the right people with
the right skills in the right roles. Human resource
consultants can help its clients to do just this.
Also known as organisational development or
change management, human resource consulting
is concerned with many parts of a company’s
day to day running, such as their human capital
issues – including remuneration, recruitment and
management – or their health and benefits systems.
Human resources consultants may also be called in
to give advice on a merger or a large acquisition,
e.g. examining how two companies could work
together, whether there’ll be a clash of cultures
and so on. Other issues such as communication
with employees, retirement and outsourcing also
fall under the remit of HR consultants.
Human resource consultancies also offer the
services of their actuaries. An actuary is a number
cruncher who applies their skills in maths and
statistics to create theoretical models to increase
an organisation’s efficiency. In addition to
economical and mathematical awareness, actuarial
consultants have to pass a number of certification
exams every so often to remain eligible to ply
their trade. Some of HR’s most eminent consulting
firms include Towers Perrin and Mercer Human
Resources Consulting.
Boutique Consulting Firms
There are a number of fallacies floating around
about boutique consulting. The first is that being
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Is Boutique Consulting for you?
Pros:
• Opportunity to specialise in a particular
sector or function from the start.
• Relatively small project teams allow for
greater responsibility early on.
• Small firm collegiality and camaraderie.
Cons:
• Specialist experience gained at a
boutique may limit opportunities with
strategy or full-service firms.
• Depending on the industry, you may
be required to spend a significant
time abroad to win enough client
assignments.
• Wages may be linked to the firm’s
success, so downturns in the boutique’s
industry may leave you out of pocket.
Aside from the obvious advantage of their area or
industry-specific expertise, boutique firms are an
attractive choice for prospective clients because of
their rates. Since they are generally, relatively small,
boutique firms have lower overheads and can
afford to charge less than their larger competitors.
Another common feature of boutiques is that they
will often have an identifiable figurehead steering
the ship whose personality will percolate through
its operations and colour the firm’s character.
L.E.K. Consulting, revered amongst its peers for
its M&A practice, and OC&C, a leader in European
private equity, are two of the biggest players from
this esoteric bunch.
The work undertaken by boutique firms might
include establishing value metrics for a retailer,
structuring the privatisation of utilities, assisting
in establishing a new supplier or restructuring an
organisation to avoid insolvency.
Internal Consulting teams
Hiring a consulting firm doesn’t come cheap.
Recognising that a consultant’s billing rates far
exceed internal salaries, some organisations have
set up what are essentially subsidiary offshoots to
supply a third party perspective. Although providing
the same outsider view as an external consultant
would, the consultant is paid on a comparatively
lower corporate pay scale.
TYPES OF CONSULTING FIRMS
a boutique consulting firm has to do with the
size of the firm. In actual fact, whether or not a
firm is a boutique consultancy is determined by
if it has a specific area (or areas) of focus or not.
For instance, regardless of its size, a consultancy
would be considered to be boutique if it focused
on mergers and acquisitions and business strategy.
A firm’s designation as boutique isn’t a reflection
of its size or prestige. However, it should be noted
that a lot of boutiques are at the lower end of
the personnel scale; firms range from around 200
employees right down to a single consultant.
Reporting to a central consulting division, internal
consultants assist on areas such as corporate
strategy, business development and project
management. An internal consultant will perform
similar tasks to an external consultant, with the
difference being that they’re permanently working
for the same client.
This has the benefit of reducing travelling and face
time pressures, however it also has its drawbacks
as internal consultants are not usually as well paid
as their external counterparts, nor will they get
the exposure to different industries and decision
makers that those at a typical consulting firm will
get.
For new graduates, though, these positions
are also few and far between. Instead, internal
consultancies tend to either hire high achievers
from within their own ranks or bring in more
experienced professionals from other firms. Many
firms both in the UK and US have taken their
consulting in-house, including: American Express,
Disney, Shell and the Vodafone Group.
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As covered in �Types of Consulting Firms’,
consultancies differ in a number of ways, including
size, company culture, the kind of work they do,
the markets they operate in and the remuneration
packages offered. This combination of factors will
affect what you’ll be doing at work from day to
day and as a result shape your career. It’s worth
remembering that the type of consultancy you
enter may not be entirely up to you at first! The
recruiting process for consultancies can be brutal,
and candidates’ choices may be limited by factors
such as the international prestige of their university
and whether their firm of choice has chosen to
recruit there or not. However, this doesn’t mean
that it’s not important to do the research and try to
apply for firms you have a genuine interest in. With
your choice of firm affecting not only your everyday
life but your future as well, it’s imperative you give
some careful thought to which consultancy you
want to work for.
“The type of consultancy you work
for will have a huge bearing on your
everyday duties and responsibilities.”
Some job seekers know instinctively what they want
from their job and career, and as a result already
have a hit list of firms they’re going to approach.
But if you’re not part of this focused minority, you
need to pin down what motivates you as soon as
possible and then use these persuasions to create
your own firm hit list.
The first step in finding the right firm for you is
listing your priorities. What matters most to you?
Is it money? Do you yearn for a more informal
working environment? Perhaps you have a passion
for a particular industry. Maybe it’s combination of
CHOOSING THE RIGHT FIRM
Choosing the right firm
factors. If you’re not sure, there’s no better place
to start than considering the type of firm you want
to work for…
The type of consultancy you work for will have
a huge bearing on your everyday duties and
responsibilities. Broadly speaking, consulting firms
can be categorised under strategy, operations, IT,
HR or boutique. But to complicate matters further,
within any one of these categories there may be
further areas of specialism, from the work the firm
does to the markets and industries it operates in.
If you know exactly what type of work or industry
you want to pursue a career in, a specialist firm in
that field may well be a good choice; but if you’re
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still unsure, or perhaps want to first develop a
breadth of experience, you may want to plumb for
a consultancy involved in a range of functions and
industries.
“If you’re unsure whether a particular
consultancy represents the best fit for
you, attend the employer’s presentation
or an open day.”
Thinking ahead, you need to consider the
opportunities a consultancy will provide moving
forward. Although you may not care too much
about the firm’s size or reputation at the moment,
these factors will have a direct effect on your
career further down the track. Larger firms may
well provide more substantial training which will
affect your professional development. They’re
also more likely to boast stronger international
networks, which may yield more secondments or
greater global opportunities. In addition to these
advantages, larger firms often provide greater job
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security.
That’s not to say there aren’t benefits to working
at smaller firms. You may be given greater
responsibility at a smaller consultancy, or the
culture may be favourably informal. However,
don’t put your entire stock on a firm’s size, as
these factors aren’t necessarily size dependent.
Each individual firm will have its pros and its cons.
And what you consider to be a pro may well be
another person’s con. In short, every consultancy
is different and picking the right one is a very
personal decision.
If you’re still unsure whether a particular
consultancy represents the best fit for you, attend
the employer’s presentation or an open day to gain
an insight into what it’s really like to work there.
Listen to what the firm has to say, speak to its
employees. You should be able to glean a lot about
the company culture, work/life balance and day to
day duties, amongst other things. But while these
presentations can be very useful, it’s vital you carry
out your own independent research too – after all,
the decisions you make now will affect your career
well into the future.
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Consulting isn’t strictly a discipline in the way
accounting, marketing or business management
are, and as a result you can’t study it at school
or university. But this isn’t because consulting
is considered a lesser industry or a second class
career option; it is because consulting doesn’t
comprise one clearly defined skill-set.
Instead, a consultant’s skill-set straddles various
disciplines, and as such their speciality is their
generalist knowledge. This allows them to shift
between different sectors and apply their skillsets to industries as disparate as high-end fashion
and waste management. Consultants hail from all
sorts of backgrounds and while their education
and professional experience will vary, there are
a number of traits that a large proportion of
consultants will have in common, regardless of
which branch of consulting they find themselves
in. Below we have assembled ten of the most
common qualities found in consultants, how many
do you share?
“Consultants hail from all sorts of
backgrounds but there are a number of
traits that a large proportion of them
will have in common.”
Broad Interests and a Thirst for Knowledge
Even if they work for a specialised boutique firm,
over the course of their career, consultants will
find themselves working on a range of different
subjects, in various industries and different
markets. It is therefore vital that a consultant has
a broad range of interests, as well as the desire to
learn more about areas which might not be their
niche.
IS CONSULTING RIGHT FOT YOU?
IS CONSULTING RIGHT FOR YOU?
Team Work and Leadership Skills
Consultants don’t work alone; they work in teams
at every stage of a project, from brainstorming
solutions to the implementation of new initiatives,
so the ability to work well with others is essential
for all would-be consultants.
Just forming a team and being able to work
together is not enough, however. A team needs
someone to give it direction and focus; it needs
a leader. Whilst it is unlikely that a candidate will
be brought in as a leader from the off, recruiters
do still look for leadership qualities during the
hiring process. When recruiting, consulting firms
look for candidates who will be a good long-term
investment; those who show that they have the
potential to lead at some point in the future will be
very attractive to them.
Analytical Skills
Analytical skills are absolutely essential to breaking
into and making it in consulting – after all, analysis
is the role’s core competency. Consultants use
their honed analytical skills to dissect data, spot
trends and salient points, and derive a conclusion.
Although the work you’ll find yourself doing will
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be more similar to the logical analysis of facts and
figures in maths and science to the analysis of
prose, metaphor and allusions in English literature,
consultants must have a range of analytical skills
which they can draw on.
“One minute you may be in the office,
the next you’ll be shipped off to the
other side of the continent.”
Presentation and Communication Skills
Once problems have been picked out and the
solutions suggested, consultants need to be able to
effectively communicate their recommendations
to the case team and the client. Consulting firms
look for candidates who can present articulately
and remain composed under questioning.
As well as being a strong presenter, consultants
need to be able to express themselves well in
written form. Moreover, they need to be diplomatic
and get on well with different people of various
ages and backgrounds. If you’re the sort of person
who can compile a compelling argument on any
given subject and can succinctly explain your point
of view without alienating others, you’re likely to
impress consulting recruiters.
Attention to Detail
Although you don’t need to be a maths professor
to work at a consulting firm, it goes without saying
that there’s a fair amount of number crunching
and spreadsheets to scrutinise. As such you’ll
need a hawk-like eye for detail. Consultants need
to be aware of every aspect of an issue before
they make a decision as even the smallest factor
can drastically change the end result of a project.
To forge a successful career in consulting, you need
to be a detail person who’s painstaking in their
approach to analysis.
Organisational Skills
Consultants lead busy, sometimes frenetic, lives
and will frequently find themselves flying several
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times a week. Throw a client or two, a team to
manage and multiple assignments into the mix,
and you’ve got yourself quite the juggling act.
As a result, it is essential for consultants to be
organised, disciplined and logical in their approach
to everything they do. A good sense of prioritisation
is incredibly valuable for those who want to make a
good impression with their bosses but still maintain
enough time to have a personal life.
Flexibility and an Interest in Travel
With so much of the work done on site with a
client, consultants have to be prepared and willing
to go where they are needed. One minute they’ll
be in the office, the next they’ll be shipped off to
the other side of the continent. Travel is part and
parcel of a consultant’s life, so remaining flexible
is key.
“You dont have to be a maths professor
to work at a consulting firm but it goes
without saying that there’s a fair amount
of number crunching.”
Although there won’t necessarily be time for sightseeing and exploring every new location you’re
sent to, having a sense of adventure and an interest
in travel will help you to put a positive spin on the
inevitable reality that flying around from place
to place really just equates to less time to spend
with family and friends and more time spent in
airports and unfamiliar locations. Consultants also
need to be at ease with international exposure
and foreign clients. The ability to speak a foreign
language would certainly make a candidate seem
more attractive, and any international experience
gleaned through work or travel would boost an
applicant’s chances.
Energy
You’ve just touched down in your third city of
the week. You’ve got to make it through customs
and check-in to your hotel before you can get to
bed, by which point you’ll have around five hours
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“There are no easy rides in consulting
- if you’re not prepared to do the hard
work to earn your salary then there
simply isn’t a place for you.”
Maturity
As part of their work, consultants will often be
working with, and offering counsel to, clients who
are perhaps decades older than themselves. As
a result, fidgeting, LOLing and loudly recounting
anecdotes from last night’s TOWIE have to go out
the window. This doesn’t mean you can’t chat
or be �human’; just make sure you behave in a
professional, friendly manner that would allay
any client’s potential fears about your age or
experience.
Total Commitment to the Job
Careers in consulting are known for offering very
impressive salaries right from the get go and, as
you may expect, consulting firms expect value for
their money. There are no easy rides in consulting –
if you’re not prepared to do the hard work to earn
your salary then there simply isn’t a place for you
in the industry.
Pressure to fulfil client expectations will often
result in late nights, early mornings and work on
the occasional weekend throughout your career,
especially if you’re hoping to make partner.
Although not always the case, consultants are likely
to find themselves working anywhere from a 60 to
80 hour week on a regular basis. Truly, the level of
work and travel involved in consulting means that
those who go into the industry have to approach
everything from dating to holidaying from a totally
different perspective to most other people.
IS CONSULTING RIGHT FOR YOU?
sleep before having to make your way to a client
meeting. However, you can’t sleepwalk your way
through a presentation with sharp, attentive
clients… oh no. Regardless of how much they’ve
worked or travelled that week, when they’re with
a client a consultant must be wide-eyed, energetic
and positive. If you’re the sort of person who still
wakes up tired after a full night’s sleep then maybe
consulting isn’t really the career for you.
17
PART 2: GETTING HIRED
19
20
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Whether or not it’s recruitment season, consulting
firms receive thousands upon thousands of
applications each and every year. Unfortunately, this
means competition is going to be fierce no matter
when you’re applying. It is therefore absolutely
crucial that you fine tune your application to give
yourself the best chance possible of making it to
the interview stage.
Applications are ordinarily submitted online, and
you’ll more often than not be required to fill in some
basic details before attaching a CV and covering
letter. Aside from the obvious prerequisites of
accurate spelling, grammar and syntax, employers
will want to see how your abilities match the
consulting skill set. Consultants assess a situation,
identify the problems, find solutions and implement
them. You should therefore use examples in
your CV of how you have demonstrated these
characteristics in the past. In addition to tailoring
your CV specifically for consulting, make sure you
tailor it for the specific firms you’re applying to.
In general, consultancies look for evidence of the
following:
“Consulting firms are looking for strong
academics. So if you’ve bagged yourself
a first from a red brick don’t be shy
about bigging it up!”
Strong Academics
Management consultancies open their doors to
applicants from a wide range of disciplines. A
numerical or analytical degree may well give you
an edge over your competitors, but on the whole
consulting firms are looking for strong academics
rather than a particular subject of study. So if
you’ve bagged yourself a first from a red brick,
don’t be shy about bigging it up!
Different firms will have different entry
requirements, but a 2:1 minimum is the industry
standard. Many firms will also stipulate a UCAS
points requirement, although this is usually more
important for undergrads than career changers or
candidates with an MBA.
TAILORING YOUR CV FOR CONSULTING
TAILORING YOUR CV TO CONSULTING
Team Players
A lot of time and care is taken in structuring
consulting teams so that the members
complement each other effectively. Some firms
go to the trouble of employing complex matrices
to fit the right consultant to the right team and
most appropriate project. This emphasis on the
importance of teamwork should be reflected in
your CV – demonstrate times you’ve been flexible
and worked well with others towards a successful
outcome.
Leadership Skills
For better or worse, the industry culture is up or
out. Firms see each candidate as either a future
partner or future client. As a result, firms look to
snag recruits with senior management potential.
Teaching leadership from scratch is a long, arduous
journey with no promises of success. Instead, firms
look for evidence of existing leadership qualities in a
candidate’s education or work experience. Head of
the debating society at uni? Throw it in. Captained
a regional football team to league success? Then
tell them!
21
Accomplishments
As discussed earlier, consultants don’t just spot
problems, they identify solutions. Furthermore,
clients want these solutions implemented quickly,
efficiently and without hassle. Therefore, any
accomplishments you can put on your CV to show
the firm you’re a do-er and a winner will boost your
chances of making the grade.
Distinctions
Consulting is a difficult industry to break into,
no more so when the market is at a low ebb.
Therefore anything you can do to make your CV
stand out from the crowd, (in a good way), should
22
be included. Highlight any technical skills you may
have, any foreign languages you speak, awards/
prizes received, publications printed, etc. Make
the most of anything at your disposal that could be
used to make your case stronger.
Industry Experience
Relevant functional or industry experience will
add another dimension to your CV. Academics are
naturally of paramount importance, but if you’ve
also been out there and done it in the real world,
be sure to let the firm know. Where possible,
quantify your results; this will bring credibility to
your achievements and make them more tangible.
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23
Consulting applications and
interviews
Management consultancies tend to operate two
or three stage recruitment processes with multiple
interviews during each round... and if that wasn’t
gruelling enough, some firms’ require candidates
to sit tests, and participate in case studies and
group presentations. Here’s a closer look:
The Application – CVs and Covering Letters
As mentioned in the previous article, (Tailoring
your CV for Consulting), consulting firms receive a
great number of applications every year. As such,
your CV and covering letters need to be honed to
perfection to give you a chance of getting to the
interview stage. Having a great CV is a sure fire way
of grabbing a recruiter’s attention; so don’t let this
opportunity go to waste!
Tests
At some point during the recruitment process you’ll
most likely have to sit some form of tests.
These tests are used to determine candidates’
ability to interpret data as well as their basic
maths skills. At almost all firms, including BCG,
Roland Berger and Bain & Company, mathematical
aptitude is tested during the interviews or as part
of an assessment day.
Some firms also ask candidates to complete a
multiple-choice, problem-solving test. These tests
are usually created using examples from real cases
and, although a full understanding of the business
is not required or expected, they still manage
to assess problem solving abilities and help the
firm understand how well each candidate would
perform as a consultant.
24
Interviews
Applicants will generally face two rounds of
interviews with consultants, managing directors
and partners. Each round will comprise a number
of interviews and some firms may even use a third
round in separating the wheat from the chaff.
The first round will typically comprise one or two
half hour interviews with a senior consultant. The
second could be made of up to four interviews,
with each ordinarily around the 45 minute mark.
These will usually be case interviews, with at least
one tГЄte-Г -tГЄte with a partner. On the whole, the
further you go in the interview process, the more
senior the interviewer.
Interviews tend to fit into one of two camps –
behavioural and business case.
Behavioural Interview
Before focusing on business acumen and
commercial awareness, firms want to see if their
applicants have the brains, the creativity, and the
mathematical and statistical know how to make
the grade. Furthermore, consultancies use this
interview as a chance to gauge whether candidates
represent a good cultural fit for the firm.
Your CV will provide the overarching structure for
the interview, but don’t go thinking a regurgitation
of your education and experience will suffice.
Successful applicants will expand on the details of
their CV. So make sure you extract and relate your
experiences to demonstrate you have what the
firm’s looking for – i.e. leadership, communication
skills and the ability to work well with others.
The saying goes �it’s what you say, not how you
say it’; but in reality, it’s both what you say AND
how you say it. Nowhere is this more true than in
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Business Case Interview
Case studies are descriptions of real life or
hypothetical business problems. Candidates are
expected to understand, analyse, and recommend
solutions to these problems. Case studies form an
integral part of the application process, though
they come at different stages and in different
forms depending on the firm. Firms use case
studies to look for qualities such as logical thought,
quantitative and qualitative analytical skills and
the ability to develop defensible answers and
recommendations.
The interviewer will typically present you with a
business situation and you’ll have to think it over,
make your suggestions and give advice. Sometimes
the business case will be presented to you orally,
and you’ll have to work through it out loud like a
guesstimate (see A Closer Look at Case Interviews
for more information). On occasion, the interviewer
will give you a hand-out with the information you’ll
need to solve the case, or they may make a formal
presentation to give you the info you need.
BCG, among other consulting firms such as
McKinsey and Bain & Company, incorporate their
business case studies (including market sizing) into
the interview. The candidate is presented with a
real-life business problem and asked for potential
solutions and then has 20-30 minutes to discuss
the solution with the interviewer.
At Monitor, for example, two written case studies
on real world business scenarios typically form the
first stage of the recruitment process. Candidates
spend 15 to 30 minutes reading a written business
case and preparing to discuss their answers to
a series of questions with the interviewer. This is
followed up by group and video case studies in the
second round. Similarly, group case studies are
used to test hopefuls at OC&C.
Each case study will be based on real client projects.
Employers will not always be looking for industry
knowledge – although that obviously helps – but
will simply want to make sure your reasoning is
sound and logical. Be sure to ask questions and
make your hypothesis and solutions both clear
and well-structured. For more detailed information
on this type of interview check out our article: �A
Closer Look at Case Interviews’.
Overall Tips and Advice
Although recruitment and interview processes vary
from firm to firm, there are best practices every job
seeker should employ in their applications.
CONSULTING APPLICATIONS AND INTERVIEWS
a consulting interview. Listen to the interviewer
carefully and make sure you actually answer the
questions asked. A common interviewer complaint
is that too many applicants don’t answer questions
correctly.
When filling in forms, be sure to check and doublecheck your spelling and grammar. Also make sure
you actually answer the questions asked – after all,
it’s all too easy to waffle on without getting to the
crux!
During assessment days, try not to worry if part of
the evaluation doesn’t go so well – stay positive
and make up the dropped points elsewhere. Do
your research on the firm and make sure that your
commercial knowledge is up to scratch. If you do
nothing else, read the news in the week leading
up to the interview and think about what you have
read.
There is one last vital piece of advice... one of the
biggest secrets to getting hired... if you can, get on
an internship scheme! It is a great way to get to
know more about the company, the kind of work
it does, and will greatly improve your chances of
being offered a position.
25
A CLOSER LOOK AT CASE INTERVIEWS
What is a case interview, and how does it differ
from any other interview?
In answering these questions, it’s actually easier
to begin by explaining what a case interview
isn’t. A case interview is not a trawl through your
employment history. A case interview is not an
exploration of your academic credentials. If you
find yourself sat opposite a case interviewer,
the consulting firm has already deemed you a
good match on paper. But while a CV implies a
certain amount about a candidate, through their
experience and academics, it doesn’t tell the whole
story. As a result, consultancies use case interviews
to assess a candidate’s skills and suitability for the
job.
The case interview is used by all consultancies (so
there’s no getting out of it!), and simply put, it is
an analysis of a business question. The interviewer
will present the business problem, or case, and by
thinking out loud you will have to derive an answer
in front of your potential employer. The question
or problem could be on anything – previous cases
have seen scenarios as diverse as marketing a cereal
and launching a new jet engine. But don’t worry,
you won’t have to read up on aviation before your
interview! The questions aren’t designed to test
whether you know the right answer; in fact, there
often is no right answer. Instead, the questions are
designed to see how you arrive at your response. In
short, the firm wants to see how your brain works
and how you use logic to solve a problem.
Before you get around to the case itself, expect
a five to ten minute preliminary chat. This may
involve a couple of behavioural questions, after
which you may be tested on your knowledge of the
company itself. Case interviews are only around
30 minutes long, and these preliminaries can eat
into 15 minutes of that time. This means you’ll only
have 15 minutes or so to do the case itself.
26
Cases come in all shapes and sizes. Most will
be presented orally, although some will involve
handouts and a few may even be entirely written.
But no matter what is required of you, cases will
generally fall into one of the following three types:
Business Cases
The interviewer will present you with a business
scenario and you’ll have to analyse it, ask
appropriate questions and make recommendations.
As mentioned earlier, there is no right or wrong
answer; however, do not make assumptions
unless you have to! If you don’t have enough
information to progress your line of reasoning,
ask your interviewer relevant questions. It’s the
interviewer’s prerogative to refuse to answer your
questions, but if that is the case, don’t be deterred.
Inform your interviewer that a lack of information
has forced you to make some assumptions and
carry on with your case. Here are the most common
questions asked in case interviews:
•
•
•
•
•
•
What is the client’s product?
Who hired our firm?
How long will the project last?
Has the client experienced this issue in the
past?
If so, how did they respond? What was the
outcome of their actions?
What have similar companies done in similar
situations?
While a business case could be on practically
anything, most can be categorised under one
of eight typical cases. Note however that these
specific case types are not mutually exclusive;
your case may be a combination of two or more
types, or require problem solving under a number
of categories. Here are the different types of
case you may receive and examples of problems
interviewers have posed in past interviews:
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Entering a New Market
If you’re faced with this case type, your task will be
to analyse whether a company should enter a new
market. This may also involve the viability of a new
product line or additional service. E.g. A computer
manufacturer has been approached about
diversifying into printers. Provide an evaluation of
this proposal and the company’s ability to deliver
the product.
Falling Profits Case
This type of case will have you investigating the
reasons for a company’s fall in profits. E.g. Food
distribution company, Fast Foods, has had three
straight quarters of growth. However, the fourth
quarter saw a 40% fall in profits. What happened?
Entering a New Geographic Market
This type of case will have you exploring whether
a company should expand into new countries or
regions. E.g. Clear-as-Day has been successfully
making bathroom cleaners in the UK for a decade.
The company believes it can replicate this success
on the Continent. How sound is this expansion?
Site Location Case
Should your interviewer pose this type of problem,
you will be tasked with evaluating possible sites for
a company’s new facility. This may even involve a
recommendation for the complete relocation of
an organisation’s operations. E.g. A motorcycle
manufacturer believes they may be able to cut costs
by moving their operations into a more provincial
retail park. What factors should be considered in
making this decision?
Mergers & Acquisitions Case
This sort of case is exactly as it sounds, requiring you
to appraise a mooted merger or acquisition. E.g. An
international voucher code website is considering
buying out a new competitor that poses a threat
in a particular market. Assess the viability of this
proposal.
Competitive Response Case
This case will challenge you to determine the best
course of action following a move by the client’s
competitor. E.g. A clothing retailer’s closest
competitor has just taken its entire product range
online. How should the client respond?
Changes in Government/Regulatory Environment
Your interviewer will present a change in
government or regulatory environment, and your
task will be to advise how the company should
respond to the new circumstances. E.g. Due to an
increase in tariffs on all exports, an international
distributer’s profits have suffered. What should the
company do?
A CLOSER LOOK AT CASE INTERVIEWS
New Product Introduction
In a nutshell, these cases will ask you to recommend
a strategy for introducing a new product to
market. E.g. Buzz Motors is a car manufacturer.
The company has designed and built a brand new
electrical car. How should it be introduced to the
market?
Guesstimates
Guesstimates are general – and sometimes frankly
random – questions which ostensibly have nothing
to do with consulting. You’re not expected to know
the precise answer, but you are expected to reach
a plausible answer, or guesstimate, through logical
thinking. Like business cases, guesstimates are
an opportunity to demonstrate analytical ability
by running through your reasoning out loud. But
while business cases will have you questioning your
interviewer in driving towards a recommendation,
in a guesstimate you’ll arrive at your conclusion
through a series of increasingly specific analyses.
For instance, you may be asked something like:
how many pounds of Brussels sprouts are sold in
the UK in the month of December? Or: what is
the total square footage of fish and chips shops in
London? No one actually expects you to know the
answer to these kinds of questions, but you will
have to, out loud, demonstrate your reasoning in
getting as close to the real answer as possible. For
instance, every family on average eats four pounds
of Brussels sprouts on Christmas Day and another
two on Boxing Day; there are roughly 17million
families in the UK; therefore... etc.
If you’re fazed by a guesstimate, you mustn’t show
it – this will damage your chances. Guesstimates
are designed to bamboozle. Stay calm; keep your
27
cool. If you need a moment to think, just ask your
interview if you can take a moment to gather your
thoughts. When you do deliver your answer, don’t
be perturbed if your interviewer cuts you dead
and moves on. It may not necessarily be a sign of
poor performance, but could well be that you’re on
the right track and the interviewer doesn’t see the
value in carrying on.
Brainteasers
As the name suggests, Brainteasers come in the
form of puzzles, logic questions or riddles. A lot
of these teasers won’t have a set answer. The
interviewer mainly wants to see how you go about
deriving a conclusion with minimal information.
In these types of cases, interviewers want to see
a candidate’s �outside the box’ logic and creative
thinking shine through.
Here are examples of guesstimates asked in
actual consulting interviews:
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
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How many ping-pong balls can fit into a
Boeing 747?
How many miles of train tracks are there
in the UK?
How many French fries does McDonalds
sell every year?
How many trains are on the London
underground?
How many horses are there in the UK?
How many people fly in and out of
Heathrow airport every day?
How many cups of coffee does Starbucks
sell per year?
What percent of the world’s cars are
owned by Chinese citizens?
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Here are examples of brainteasers asked in
actual consulting interviews:
•
•
•
•
•
By moving one of the following digits,
make the equation correct. 62 – 63 = 1
Mary’s father has five daughters: 1.
Nana, 2. Nene, 3. Nini, 4. Nono. What is
the name of the fifth daughter?
If 6 people were in a room and shook each
other’s hand, how many handshakes
would there be in total?
You have 12 black socks and 12 white
socks mixed up in a drawer. You’re up
very early and it’s too dark to tell them
apart. What’s the smallest number of
socks you need to take out (blindly) to be
sure of having a matching pair?
What is special about the following
sequence of numbers? 8 5 4 9 1 7 6 10
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At this stage you might be asking yourself: what is
the point of asking me about the number of dog
collars sold in the UK in the past year? How does
this indicate how good a consultant I would be?
Well, consultants are a sneaky bunch and through
seemingly random questions, here’s what they’re
looking for:
“In the interview you won’t be expected
to give a flawless performance, but the
firm will be evaluating your presentation
skills”
How do you present yourself?
When you do become a fully-fledged consultant,
you’ll have to make presentations all the time, to
clients and colleagues alike. Interviewers want to
see how you handle yourself, even when you are
thinking on the spot. Does your body language
deteriorate at the first sign of a hard question?
Do you “um” and “ah” constantly when trying to
find the right words? In the interview you won’t be
expected to give a flawless performance, but they
will be evaluating your presentation skills.
Can you roll with the punches?
Consultants have notoriously irregular schedules
and can spend months behind a desk only to be
told they are needed in a faraway country in 24
hours. You need to be able to take these changes
with ease and a smile on your face. Interviewers
will test this by throwing out extra information
during your case to see how well you cope with a
spanner in the works.
Have you got that pep in your step?
You should know this from other interview
experiences, but don’t show up tired with
bloodshot eyes and a bed-head nest on your scalp.
The consultants need someone with energy and
spirit as the job may require long hours, lots of
travelling, and then early morning meetings with
clients. They are looking for someone who can
connect with clients and show enthusiasm no
matter how little they’ve slept the night before.
Can you analyse this? Obviously a big part of
being a consultant is analysing data, (if you don’t
already love Excel spreadsheets, you should learn
to). By giving you a business case or a guesstimate
question, the interviewer will be looking to see how
you handle the data you’re given, how you organise
it in your head, how you separate out the details
that are important, and how you analyse them.
CASE INTERVIEWS: WHAT’S THE POINT?
Case interviews: What’s the point?
Are you a maths nerd and proud of it?
Hopefully you already know that maths skills are a
must if you want to be a consultant. The questions
you are asked in your interview will probably, at
several points, test your maths skills and see how
good you are with numbers.
“If something is tricky during the
interview, don’t panic and don’t be
afraid to ask for clarification or more
information.”
What’s your IQ?
Well hopefully they won’t actually ask you that!
But they are looking for smarts and how your
brain works. They want to see how fast you can
grasp something and that you can give the data
thoughtful, deep analysis in a short amount of time.
If something is tricky during the interview, don’t
panic and don’t be afraid to ask for clarification or
more information from your interviewer. People
think that asking extra questions shows that you
29
didn’t get it but in reality, a thoughtful question will
show them that you are considering the scenario
very carefully, eager for more information, and
have the guts to ask.
“Consultants can’t let any little piece of
information get by them as it could be the
key to solving the project.”
Did you catch that?
The case interviews will also be a test of how
observant you are and your attention to detail.
Consultants can’t let any little piece of information
get by them as it could be the key to solving the
project. You need to remember to show that you
consider every piece of data they throw at you, as
well as come to the interview organised and ready
to go. If you have to ask the interviewer to borrow
a pen, you’ve already lost the job.
30
How old can you act?
As a consultant, especially when you’re just starting
out, you’re going to be working with execs that are
older than you – several decades older than you in
some cases. In your interview they will be looking
for someone mature who conducts themselves
appropriately.
Can you lead us to victory?
Consultants have to be leaders. Yes, you may be
behind a desk buried in spreadsheets for a while,
but you will also have to give recommendations and
advice to the heads of companies and that can be
an intimidating scenario. The interview questions
are designed to see if you can take charge of a
situation with confidence and a strong backbone.
In all honesty case interviews can be intimidating,
nerve-wracking, and downright frightening. But if
you remember to be yourself, take all of the wacky
questions calmly, and show up prepared to dazzle
them with your charm and intelligence, you’ll ace
your case.
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31
TIPS FOR THE CASE INTERVIEW
Take notes
Before you step out the door, make sure you have
a notepad and pen with you. Furthermore, check
that the latter works and isn’t going to run out of
ink five minutes into your interview. Turning up
without either one of these essential items will
first, send a message that you’re not prepared,
and second, prevent you from answering your
interviewer’s questions to the best of your ability.
Unless you have an incredible memory, you won’t
be able to remember all the facts and figures your
interviewer presents you without noting them
down. So pack pen and paper, make sure you take
notes, and don’t be afraid to ask your interviewer
to repeat information if you need to.
the responses you receive and incorporate them
into your analysis.
Ask Questions
Maintain Eye Contact
Listen to the Answers
Take Your Time
You’re interviewing for a position at a consultancy,
right? So assume the persona of a consultant!
Ask as many questions as you need to paint your
own picture of the scenario. The interviewer
will invariably leave information out of the case
they present, and there’s a chance they might
not even make this information available to you
if you do ask; but don’t make the error of asking
too few questions. You won’t look ignorant for
asking questions and the interviewer won’t judge
you for being demanding. We can’t be experts on
everything, so if you don’t know how much it costs
to produce a processor for a laptop, for instance,
just ask.
This may sound obvious, but if you’re going to ask
a question, make sure you listen carefully to the
answer. Many interviewees put so much effort
into sculpting a well-structured set of questions
that they neglect to really listen to the answers
and therefore don’t register potentially vital
information. So make sure you carefully listen to
32
Maintaining eye contact is good advice whether
you’re chatting with your mates or engaged
in an informal tête-à -tête. However, it’s worth
emphasising here because of the importance of
face-to-face communication in consulting. If you
successfully navigate the consulting interview
process, at some point you may find yourself
faced with a room full of clients, all staring at you,
waiting expectedly for an answer to their probing
questions. While what you say to your audience is
certainly important, it’s also imperative you deliver
your response with confidence and authority.
Maintaining good eye contact will help you do just
that.
Don’t feel you have to blurt out an answer the
moment the interviewer has completed their
question. Take a breath. Compose yourself. If you
need a moment to gather your thoughts to provide
a comprehensive answer, just ask if it’s OK to have
a minute to think. Your interviewer certainly won’t
hold it against you. On the other hand, take four
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Structure Your Responses
When responding to any question, it is essential
that you explain your approach. Tell your
interviewer, �First I’m going to discuss X; second,
I’m going to ask about Y; then using this information
I’ll present my conclusion.’ This will demonstrate
to your interviewer that you can think clearly and
logically. Don’t feel embarrassed about mapping
your response out aloud, and if you’re not used
to it, practice on your family or friends before the
interview. This should help iron out as many of the
�ums’ and �ahs’ as possible.
Furthermore, if you can squeeze in any advanced
business concepts – such as Porter’s Five Forces
(see the Case Frameworks article for more
information) – into your answer, do it – this will no
doubt leave a lasting impression.
Quickly Summarise Your Conclusions
The entire case interview may be as short as 15
minutes. As a result, your conclusion will have
to be both brief and articulate. If you’re not well
practised at summarising with such ruthless
precision, practice this at home. Your aim should
be to deliver a conclusion in 60 seconds or less. So
get a stopwatch and get practising!
TIPS FOR THE CASE INTERVIEW
or five minutes and you will certainly be testing
your interviewer’s patience – after all, the case
interview’s only meant to be 15 or 20 minutes long!
When it comes to your actual answer, you should
apply the same logical structure:
•
Pinpoint the objectives
•
Identify the key players
•
Provide your recommendation
33
case frameworks
When tackling a case interview, it is important you
make use of one or several frameworks in order
to efficiently process the information, structure
your thoughts and formulate a well-thought-out
answer for your interviewer. Frameworks are
helpful building blocks and allow you to quickly
have an idea of how to approach a case problem.
But here’s a note of caution: don’t blindly
memorise all the frameworks and simply
regurgitate your memorisation of the Four P’s or
Three C’s during the interview. This myopic, cookie
cutter approach will have you forget the bigger
picture. Also, you should not communicate that
you are using a framework during the interview.
Don’t say something like “I will use Porter’s Five
Forces to analyse this market…” That’s the last
thing a jet lagged veteran interviewer who’s sat
with hundreds of candidates wants to hear. They
may very well penalise you for a lack of creativity.
Also, be aware that you will often not be able
to find a framework that fits the case problem
exactly, so always try to use your common sense
in combination with one or more frameworks. Try
and master 3 or 4 key frameworks that apply to
the vast majority of consulting cases; then during
the interview engage your interviewer with
interesting discussions points and innovative
approaches to the problem all the while referring
to the frameworks to strengthen your argument.
34
frameworks, is the key to cracking the case.
So when you plan out your answer, take a
moment and think: what is the most logical way
of breaking this question down? And what are
questions that I really need to answer to solve
this business problem?
3 C’s and a P also called “Business
Situation” framework
This is a multi-purpose and widely applied
framework that can be applied to tackle a wide
range of business problems. It is best used for
issues like entering an existing or new market,
launching a new business or product, growing
a business, reaching profitability, adjusting
strategy and other open-ended types of cases.
This framework stipulates that four factors must
be taken into consideration:
The Customer: During the case, ask yourself
“who is the customer? What is the size of the
market? Is it a growing or shrinking market?”
Whenever possible, slice and dice the data
that’s presented to you even further and identify
market sub-groups, relative market share,
growth rate, customer needs, purchasing trends,
price sensitivity, etc...
This will allow you to master the large majority
of case situations. And if you do fall on a case
that’s a little odd and unusual – then it probably
requires you to create and present a framework
on the fly. After all consultants are expected to
think outside the box and deliver new solutions.
The Company: Ask yourself “What does the
company do? What makes the company unique?
What is the company’s value proposition? What
products and services do the company offer?
What are its distribution channels? What is the
company cost structure (fixed vs. variable)?” And
other questions the likes of: “How sound is the
company financially? How much weight does the
company’s brand carry? What’s the company’s
organisational structure like?”
But most importantly, make sure you deliver
your analysis in a structured and coherent way.
We can’t emphasise enough that structure, not
The Competition: Key questions to ask here
are: “How crowded is the market the company
operates in? How many competitors are there?
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Product: “Who buys it? Why? Is it unique to the
company? Can competitors move in easily with a
similar product? What’s the product’s lifecycle?”
Porter’s Five Forces
This framework is very useful to understand the
attractiveness of an industry or a market and to
offer an insight into the competitive intensity
(both internal and external) of the company. The
Five Forces are 1) threat of new competition,
2) threat of substitute products or services
3) bargaining power of customers (buyers) 4)
bargaining power of suppliers and 5) intensity of
competitive rivalry.
BCG GROWTH-SHARE MATRIX
This is a helpful framework to use when
addressing market share and industry growth
questions.
The “growth share matrix”—stars, dogs, cash
cows, and question marks—is a diagram of
the normal relationship between cash use and
cash generation, (see below for an illustration).
The use of cash is proportional to the rate of
growth of any product. The generation of cash
is a function of market share because of the
experience curve effect.
All of the products of a company can be shown
on a single growth share matrix as a product
portfolio. Each product can be plotted on its
own growth and share coordinates. The size
of the product can be indicated by a circle in
proportional scale.
SWOT Analysis
“ S t re n gt h - We a k n e s s / O p p o r t u n i t y- T h re a t
Analysis”, is another broad framework that’s
widely used to evaluate a company or new
business venture. Here are the questions to ask
yourself:
CASE FRAMEWORKS
How does this affect pricing? What is the
company’s competitive advantage? Is this a
viable competitive advantage in the long term?”
Strengths: What are the characteristics of the
company that give it an advantage over others?
Weaknesses: What are the characteristics
or limitations that place the company at a
disadvantage relative to others?
Opportunities: What are the external factors
that can improve the company’s performance
(e.g. increase profits) in the environment/market
it operates in?
Threats: What are the external factors in the
environment the company operates in that could
cause trouble (e.g. hamper growth)?
The 4 P’s
This adaptable and flexible framework is best
used when building a marketing plan or talking
marketing issues like a new product strategy,
development of new markets or initiatives to
increase market share. The 4 P’s are:
Price: In the case that is presented to you, you’ll
want to analyse how the pricing of a product
or service is being used. Companies use their
price as a competitive advantage. Poundland, for
example, undercuts it competitors by offering the
lowest possible price on its products, whereas
Chanel will set its prices very high (to maximise
profits and portray a “premium” image).
Product: Based on the case given to you, try and
determine the value of the product or service
the company offers. Ask yourself: “Is the product
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or service unique? Does it offer the company a
strategic advantage? Does it have mass appeal?
Does it have a long life cycle?”
Place: Think of the channels through which
the product (or service) is sold and how it is
positioned in the marketplace compared to the
competition. Placement can provide a company
with an advantage relative to its competitors.
People may for example use more of a product
if it is convenient to find, purchase and consume.
Promotion: Marketing is key – and in today’s
marketplace companies need to have a buzz
around any product for it to be successful. So ask
yourself how do you make a product stand out?
You’ll want to suggest a promotional strategy for
the product in the context of the case you are
presented.
There are plenty of other frameworks to inspire
yourself from when cracking the case. Make sure
you’re familiar with the following.
Value Chain Analysis
STP (Segmenting, Targeting, Positioning)
This framework is helpful in determining the right
market for a product or service. “Segmenting”
means identifying the different types of
customers, “targeting” helps pinpoint the target
group, and “positioning” calls for implementing
a strategy that appeals to this target group.
Profitability Framework
To analyse a profitability scenario you’ll need
to analyse revenues (quantity x price) and
costs (fixed vs. variable costs). Profit will be the
company’s revenues less the costs; and to fully
understand profitability make sure to comment
on the income statement if available (see our
chapter on financial statements).
Other frameworks to take a look at include:
• Ansoff Matrix
• Fixed Cost/Variable Cost
• Profit Tree
• PEST Analysis
• Value Chain Analysis
This framework looks into a company’s activities
and links them to the company’s competitive
position. This is a great framework to flush out
the different elements of a cost structure.
36
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Understanding financial statements (or accounts)
and how they interplay is fundamental to your
success in cracking the consulting case interviews.
Most likely, you won’t be asked to perform a
detailed accounting analysis of a company but
many consulting firms, especially those with
strong financial divisions, will expect you to be
able to review, interpret and comment on financial
statements.
The trick to succeeding is first to understand the
data you’re being asked to analyse and secondly to
be able to link it back to the case interview that was
given to you by the interviewer.
Financial statements, put simply, represent all
the relevant financial information of a company,
presented in a structured manner and in a form
easy to understand. There are four basic financial
statements that provide the information needed to
evaluate a company. They include:
•
•
•
•
The Balance Sheet
The Income Statement
The Statements of Retained Earnings
The Statements of Cash Flows
Here’s a closer look at each:
1) The Balance Sheet
The Balance Sheet presents the financial position of
a company at a given point in time.
It includes three sections: Assets, Liabilities and
Equity.
Assets are the economic resources that the company
uses to run its business. They include Cash, Inventory
and Equipment.
Liabilities presents the debts of the company.
Liabilities represent what the company owes, in
other words, the claims that creditors have on the
company’s resources.
Equity reveals the net worth of a company: this
equals the assets that the company owns less the
debts they owe to creditors. Equity can also be
defined as the claims that investors have on the
company’s resources.
In a nutshell, the Balance Sheet represents the
economic resources of a company, including the
claims that creditors and equity holders have on
those resources.
ANALYSING FINANCIAL STATEMENTS
ANALYsING FINANCIAL STATEMENTS
When looking at a balance sheet it’s also important
to understand that companies can obtain resources,
(e.g. cash), from both creditors and investors, and
why the two are different. Debts from creditors
are classified as a Liability, whereas equity from
investors are classified as Equity.
Companies incur debts from creditors to, for
example, purchase resources necessary to run their
businesses and promise to pay that debt back over a
specified period of time, regardless of the operating
performance of the company. Companies also
look to investors to acquire economic resources.
However, companies don’t promise to pay investors
back a specified amount over a specified period
of time. Instead, companies promise investors a
return on their investment often contingent on the
operating performance of the company. Since an
equity holder’s investment is not guaranteed, it is
more risky that a loan made by a creditor. Debts
owed to creditors are more “senior” than the
investments of equity holders and are classified as
Liabilities, while equity investments are accounted
for in the Equity section of the Balance Sheet.
2) The Income Statement
In addition to incurring debt and seeking new
investors, a company can also obtain the resources
necessary to operate its business through its own
operations. The Income Statement presents the
37
results of operations of a business over a specified
period of time, (e.g. one month, one quarter, one
year), and includes 3 elements: Revenues, Expenses
and Net Income.
Revenue is the amount of money that a company
receives during a specific period. It is the “top
line” or “gross income” figure from which costs
are subtracted to determine net income. Revenue
is generally calculated by multiplying the price at
which goods or services are sold by the number of
units or amount sold within a time period.
Expenses are the opposite of revenue. Expenses
are the costs incurred by a business over a specified
period of time to generate the revenues earned
during that same period of time. For example, in
order for Buzz Snowboards to sell snowboards, it
must buy all the materials needed (wood, plastic,
aluminium, paint, etc.) to make snowboards. Buzz
Snowboard must also pay employees to both make
and sell the product and operate the business. These
are examples of expenses that a company can incur
in order to operate.
So, when is a purchase considered an asset, and
when is it considered an expense?
Assets vs. expenses: A purchase is considered
an asset if it provides the company with future
economic benefit, while expenses only relate to
the current period. For example, monthly salaries
paid to employees for services already rendered
during the month would be considered expenses.
On the other hand, purchasing a computer or
manufacturing equipment would be called an
asset, as it will probably be used for more than one
accounting period.
Net Income: Often referred to as the “bottom line”,
net income is calculated by taking revenues and
adjusting for the cost of doing business, depreciation,
interest, taxes and other expenses. This number is
found on a company’s income statement and is an
important measure of how profitable the company
is over a period of time. A positive net income
number indicates a profit, while a negative net
income number indicates that a company suffered a
loss, (called a “net loss”).
38
3) The Statement of Retained Earnings
This statement explains the changes in a company’s
retained earnings over a specific reporting period.
Retained earnings represent the portion of net
income which is retained by the company rather than
distributed to its owners (as dividends). Conversely,
if the company takes a loss, then that loss is retained
and called variously retained losses.
The Statement of Retained Earnings doesn’t provide
any new information not already reflected in other
financial statements. But it does provide information
on what management is doing with the company’s
earnings. Management may be re-investing some or
all of the company’s net income into the business,
distributing some or all of its income to shareholders
(in the form of dividends).
4) The Statement of Cash Flows
The Statement of Cash Flows shows how changes in
balance sheet accounts and income affect cash and
cash equivalents. Essentially, the cash flow statement
is concerned with the flow of cash in and cash out of
the business and is a useful in determining the shortterm viability of a company, particularly its ability to
pay bills.
Remember that the Income Statement provides
information about the economic resources involved
in the operation of a company. However, the Income
Statement does not provide information about the
actual source and use of cash generated during its
operations.
That’s because obtaining and using economic
resources doesn’t always involve cash. For example,
let’s say you went shopping and bought a new
snowboard on your credit card in August, but didn’t
pay the bill until September. Although the store did
not receive cash in August, the sale would still be
considered August revenue.
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PART 3: LIFE ON THE JOB
39
So we’ve established how to get a job with a
consulting firm, now it’s probably a good idea to
address the question of what consultants actually
do: what does the job entail and what are the dayto-day responsibilities?
The answer to this question isn’t a straightforward
one; it depends on seniority, experience, phase
of the project cycle and the company. But broadly
speaking, as a consultant you’ll split your time
between two distinct types of work: case work and
non-case work.
In case work you’ll be working on projects of varying
lengths, at various sites for various clients. These
projects generally encompass research, analysis,
report writing and implementation. The other type of
work, non-core, includes pitching for new business,
preliminary research, recruitment and knowledge
building. This work is the work a consultant does
when they are not staffed on a project, (also known
as being “on the bench”) but also in addition to case
work.
Case work, and specifically the variety of work that
projects provide, is one of the main reasons that
so many graduates and experienced professionals
are drawn to consulting. However non-case work
is also very important and can be just as rewarding.
Entry-level and mid-level (MBA grads) consultants
ordinarily handle the following duties:
Case Work
Research
• Research on the client and its industry –
using investment banking reports and other
resources, such as Bloomberg and Companies
House filings.
• Interviewing the client’s customers to gain
an additional perspective on the company’s
service.
• Scouring the firm’s records for previous
information on the client or relevant industry.
• Liaising with project leads for advice and
insights on the firm.
• Assisting in weekly client discussions on any
WHAT DO CONSULTANTS DO?
wHAT DO CONSULTANTS DO?
A Consultant’s Inside View:
“I worked for a medical devices company that
was considering whether or not to continue
investing in an early stage technology it
was developing. The research stage was
very important as I needed to gain a holistic
perspective on the client data. By reading
all relevant internal documentation on the
prior phases of this project I was able to have
intelligent and accurate conversations with the
executives who had already fought and “lived”
these battles. Documents including project
management documents, scientific trial results
and past internal company presentations were
extremely useful for this.”
41
•
•
•
business issues.
Assembling and scouring client data that is
relevant to the topic at hand.
Interviewing industry experts around the
industry or function of the client’s problem.
Distilling your findings (from secondary or
primary sources) and sharing the key themes
and trends in the research with your client and
the team.
Analysis
• Designing a conceptual framework that
integrates multiple data sources and
uncertainties into a quantitative model.
• Importing raw data sources from the client,
industry research, or internal firm databases.
• Cleaning up data to match the model structure
and format.
• Developing and testing a robust and agile
model that “works” and allows team members
to engage/debate on the key variables and
sensitivities that drive the model outputs.
• Creating a discounted cash flow (DCF)
on Microsoft Excel and developing other
quantitative financial models.
• Facilitating debate around the appropriateness
of certain variable values with senior consulting
team members and client team members.
• Running a “sensitivity analysis” around key
model inputs and the related outputs.
• Translating model outputs from Excel to
PowerPoint into client presentation materials
that can be used to inform the client or drive
discussion.
• Cleaning up the model for use by the client.
• Developing documentation to use and
understand the model.
• Training an assigned client team member on
the use of the model.
• Analysing the accumulated data.
• Developing proposals and recommendations.
42
Report Writing – aka “Building the Deck”
• Preparing the final presentation.
• Assisting in presenting the firm’s findings and
recommendations to the client.
• Developing a high level, conceptual “storyline”
around your section of the client presentation.
• Storyboarding what you believe are the main
visual pieces of the presentation and confirming
or receiving feedback from your project
manager on your overall approach.
• Developing high impact visualisation methods
to show important data and findings.
• OR Writing your slides on paper and faxing
them to an in-house graphics centre to produce
the PowerPoint slides, so that you can remain
focused on developing content and insights.
• Cleaning up and editing slides as new data and
findings emerge.
• Writing data-driven insights and “key takeaways”
on each slide so that each slide leads to, ideally,
an actionable recommendation.
• Implementation and Project Management
Support
• Organising the client team responsible for
driving execution.
• Assigning responsibilities to key team members
to “own” pieces of the implementation.
• Acting as a problem-solving partner with client
team members on pieces of the project that are
lagging or hitting roadblocks.
• Ensuring consistent execution by the client
team.
• Supporting the client team in creating executive
communication materials.
• Coaching client team members in presenting
updates to senior executives; allowing clients
the space to succeed and look good.
• Following the completion of the project,
documenting and analysing the strategy’s
outcomes.
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Pitching
• Helping evangelise the firm to prospective
clients – this includes researching the potential
client and preparing supporting documents.
• Assisting in compiling the prospective client’s
proposal.
• Delivering a sales pitch to the prospective client
– ordinarily using PowerPoint.
A Consultant’s Inside View
“I helped on a number of pitch decks during
my time as a consultant. One was for a large
consumer goods company that wanted to
develop its social media strategy. In this case,
I researched several best practices approaches
to social media engagement, both from online
resources as well as from internal practice
documents. My responsibility was to create
several one page “case studies” of companies
who engaged in successful social media
engagement with tangible business results.
The idea was to bring the best of the firm’s
thinking on a particular topic to impress a
client about our knowledge and capability.”
Recruiting
• Delivering recruiting presentations in your
region or at the university you attended.
• Holding informal coffee chats at your university.
• Interviewing and evaluating candidates in early
decision rounds.
• Assisting in “cultivation” efforts to persuade
candidates who have an offer at your firm
to accept, and not accept an offer from a
competing firm.
A Consultant’s Inside View:
“A second example of pitching is from when
a semiconductor player was considering a
market entry into the solar panel business. My
responsibility was to study a company that had
made a similar move into an adjacent market,
analyse its success over time, and demonstrate
that in a short pitch deck.
I found client pitch work to be very ad-hoc
by nature; you are an available pair of hands
helping out associates and partners who are
aggressively trying to win business.”
WHAT DO CONSULTANTS DO?
Non-Case Work
Knowledge Building
• Synthesising lessons learned from consulting
engagements.
• Developing a “fact pack” around a common
problem faced by clients in a particular industry,
or some sort of industry trend, that can be of
use to consultants who are staffed on similar
engagements in the future.
• Working with senior consulting team members
to ensure that the insights are noteworthy,
accurate, and actionable by future teams.
• Publishing work in an internal firm knowledge
database or externally in an outward-facing
client publication.
43
CONSULTING JOB DESCRIPTIONS
Despite distinctions and variations in job titles
between consultancies, the levels and promotion
paths are relatively similar from firm to firm.
Consulting positions can be broadly categorised as
either entry-level, mid-level, management-level or
partner-level.
Entry-level – Associate
The most common entry-level or undergraduate
role is Associate. It is unlikely an Associate will have
gained much, if any, specific industry experience,
but they will be inquisitive and analytical with
a quantitative aptitude. Associates will receive
a certain amount of formal training, but the
majority of their schooling will be on-the-job. This
is sometimes referred to as the �apprenticeship’
model of training, where a great deal of an
Associate’s growth results from mentoring by
Managers and Consultants who dole out �stretch’
assignments and lots of constructive feedback.
“Associates may not have much
specific industry experience but they
will be inquisitive and analytical with a
quantitative aptitude.”
An Associate is normally given ownership of
specific segment of a project, as well as having
responsibility for supporting the broader problemsolving effort. They will collate and analyse data,
conduct interviews with key market players and
industry specialists and turn their conclusions into
presentable output. The findings, and contributions
to team discussions, deliver impact for clients.
44
Associates will normally learn their trade for two to
three years, during which time they will work on a
variety of projects spanning numerous industries,
functions and technologies. By the end of this
period, an Associate will either be ready to move up
to the next level or decide to abandon the industry
altogether. Those who stay in consulting will often
study for an MBA before becoming a Consultant,
although depending on the firm and their area
of specialism, this is not always a prerequisite to
promotion. Many Associates spend six to twelve
months on a secondment, usually with a client, at
this point to gain some industry experience before
returning to consulting.
Mid-level – Junior Consultant/Consultant
In many respects, the Junior Consultant and
Consultant roles are very similar to that of an
Associate. The type of work is the same but
the primary difference is the expectation of
how much responsibility you can take and how
effectively you can work. As their experience
increases, Consultants begin to develop specialised
knowledge and manage a significant portion of
the project. They are encouraged to coach junior
team members and serve as a thought partner to
colleagues.
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“Principal is the position at which a
consultant really begins prospecting for
new business.”
The Junior Consultant role is not used in all
organisations, but where it exists it would lead into
a Consultant role in 1-2 years. A Consultant would
usually expect to reach the next level after around
2 years, by which time they are highly experienced
with project work, and have begun strengthening
their management skills and specialising in one or
two industry sectors.
Management – project leader/principal
Following their term as a Consultant, the next
promotion is to Project Leader, who will run the
project and develop the daily client relationship.
The Project Leader manages the team of Associates
and Consultants, dividing the work up between
them and using their output to synthesise the
overall solution for presentation to the client. The
Project Leader will also need to keep the Partner up
to speed with the project’s progress, briefing them
on any issues or changes of direction as they come
up, and drawing from their extensive experience for
guidance. Project Leaders are usually specialised in
one or sometimes two industry sectors, and they
are beginning to build strong relationships with
both clients and partners on this basis.
The next rung on the ladder is the Principal position.
The role is similar to Project Leader but will involve
larger, more complicated projects and sometimes
running two or three projects at once. In addition
to day-to-day project work, this is the position at
which a consultant really begins developing strong
relationships with senior clients and prospecting
for new business. Networking is vital for Principals,
especially at firms which ask its other business lines
to e¬valuate Principals’ eligibility for Partnership.
Partner-level – Partner/Director
At the pinnacle of consulting, the Partner position
requires the ability to build and maintain client
relationships, as well as develop the intellectual
capital of the firm.
CONSULTING JOB DESCRIPTIONS
A consultant will also work closely with mid-level
client employees to develop a deep understanding
of their issues and securing their buy-in on solutions
– providing a vital service for their Manager who
will often only be interacting with the client at a
more senior level.
Partners directly contribute to the firm’s profits; as
a result, on promotion they can normally expect a
significant increase in remuneration. Some firms
tie Partner compensation to how much the partner
sells. Not only does this system mitigate the
financial risk to the firm; it also provides incentive
for Partners to perform.
But not all consultants welcome this performancebased pressure, and instead opt for a Director
position, if the firm offers it. Directors will usually
have highly developed knowledge and experience
of a particular area, and operate as an expert
resource for other Partners’ projects. As a result, a
Director is less responsible for the amount of work
sold, but equally is not exposed to the potentially
substantial rewards. Successfully climb the ranks
past Associate, Consultant, Project Leader and
Principal and you could one day be filling these
coveted positions!
45
TYPES OF CONSULTING PROJECTS
Over the course of their careers, consultants
ordinarily work across various industries and on
all sorts of projects. Despite this span and variety
of assignments, consulting projects can loosely be
categorised as one of the following:
Strategy Projects
A strategy project is exactly what it sounds – a
review and evaluation of a company’s current
overall strategy. Consultancies are often hired to
undertake strategy projects following a change
in a client’s leadership, or in the aftermath of
disappointing financial results – usually under
pressure from their board of directors.
Consultants will typically examine whether their
client could be more competitive and investigate
their vulnerability to fundamental market changes,
A Consultant’s Inside View: Strategy Projects
“One of my first projects at the firm was a
classic strategy project. Our team was hired by
a regional cable TV operator in North America to
evaluate whether they should put major capital
investment dollars into a 4G LTE broadband
network.
The cable TV business was undergoing significant
technological change, with “Millennials” and
other consumers who were “cutting the cord” of
cable because they could obtain entertainment
via the internet through multiple other devices
and platforms, e.g. Hulu, Netflix and iTunes.
A second factor was the imminent availability
of 4G LTE networks. These networks promise
broadband speed completely over the air rather
than via the cord which means that future
players offering mobile broadband products
46
such as the introduction of new technologies. The
consulting team will then present their findings
and make strategic recommendations to the
client. If the project goes well, the client may hire
the consultancy to implement these suggestions.
Furthermore, if the subsequent strategic execution
runs smoothly and yields results, the client may
well seek the firm’s counsel on an on-going basis.
Cost Cutting/Re-engineering Projects
Following on the heels of strategy projects, these
data-intensive assignments normally require
prolonged periods at the client site. Consultants
are tasked with finding ways to save the client
money and demonstrating the impact of their
recommendations. This analysis could involve the
review of anything from the cost of raw materials
to advertising spend.
could completely bypass the existing cable and
telephony infrastructure to offer a competitive
product to cable.
This project involved developing responses to
a number of highly uncertain questions – how
would mobile broadband pricing evolve over
time?; how would mobile broadband data
consumption evolve over time?; would the
specific technology under consideration be a
technology with “staying power” or at least
enough staying power to obtain a return on
investment?; assuming that data usage was
set to explode, how could we model explosive
growth in a conservative way?; how quickly
would users cut the cord?; which devices would
be here to stay – was everything moving towards
an all purpose phone that would provide all the
internet needs for a household, or would people
still desire things like data cards?”
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As a company expands – merging with and
acquiring other businesses – it can sometimes grow
into an unwieldy behemoth, comprising various
structures that don’t necessary slot together.
A structural reshuffle can help mitigate these
problems associated with large businesses, and the
third party expertise of a consultancy is often called
upon to optimise their operations.
Any recommendations a consultancy makes, will
invariably affect the client’s employees. Job titles
and descriptions may change. Entire departments
can be created, disbanded or shifted and employees
may find themselves moved into different jobs,
relocated or even made redundant. Those who
retain their job in some guise may well be expected
to learn new methods and technologies, and
assimilate the processes and policies implemented
by their company. With the sensitive nature of
these changes, consultants must be compassionate
– after all, one day these individuals may become
clients!
Project Management/Implementation
In large-scale projects, companies often find the
third-party impartiality of a consultancy helpful in
coordinating a number of different departments.
This means plenty of facilitating, mediating and
implementing – i.e. anything that helps drive the
project to a successful completion.
Some consultants complain that project
management isn’t the most interesting or
stimulating of work, but not only will these projects
help hone organisational and interpersonal skills,
they also provide a recurring revenue stream that
often makes up the bulk of a consultancy’s bottom
line.
A Consultant’s Inside View: Reorganisation
Projects
“I once worked on a post-merger integration
between a large US Healthcare company
and a fairly large acquisition. During this
project, many tough decisions were made
around how the departments were going
to reduce their headcounts, etc. in order to
realise the synergies promised by the original
transaction.
TYPES OF CONSULTING PROJECTS
Reorganisation Projects
This type of project is emotionally trying for
everyone involved, so it is no surprise that
companies bring in external consultants to
provide focus on the technical details of what
must be done.
“During the project my firm oversaw a
number of different activities, including:
• Setting up teams of employees to lead
and own the integration effort, coaching
them through tough decisions, and
making sure these decisions were made.
• Facilitating the “grading” of employees
as “A”, “B” or “C” players in order to
retain the best and release those to be
deemed underperforming. This was not
easy work but, obviously, it had to be
done.
• Reshuffling of positions. Unfortunately
this led to some high performing
executives leaving because they felt that
the growth opportunities were lacking as
another layer of management just got
placed above them.
• Combining the products and services of
the two companies where appropriate
and re-segmenting customers.
• Redefining product and service bundles.
47
Sales/Marketing and Distribution Projects
Consulting firms are increasingly called upon by
clients to assess marketing strategies and sales
functions. Like in strategy projects, the consultants
will then propose improvements to the client’s MO.
Consulting teams are also hired to recommend the
most effective and efficient distribution channels,
and analyse the merits and viability of alternatives.
A Consultant’s Inside View: Sales/Marketing
Projects
“I worked on one project for a medical device
manufacturer which was focused specifically
on reducing costs in their customer service
group. One of the ways that they determined
they could do this was by outsourcing the
entire customer service function to India. So,
the project itself was focused on building up
capacity in the Indian customer service side
while gradually decreasing the staffing in the
US and Europe-based sites. I got the feeling
that this is an extremely common type of
project across many operations-focused
firms.”
Market Study and Due Diligence Projects
In market study and due diligence projects, a
consulting firm can use its research and analytical
nous to provide an impartial perspective on a
developing market. The particulars of the project
will vary depending on the client’s area of interest
and their audience; but regardless of the market,
consultants will use SWOT analysis to spot drivers
and trends in the industry and analyse how this
relates to the client specifically.
48
For more careers information visit www.insidebuzz.co.uk
A Consultant’s Inside View: Due Dilligence
Projects
“I worked on a two week due diligence for a
large private equity firm that was analysing
a player in the financial transactions space.
We split the team of analyst/associates into
different groups, with each analysing a major
emerging market – Russia, India, Brazil for
example. The project involved a lot of:
• Reviewing and synthesising very
expensive secondary research reports
regarding particular markets.
• Interviewing local members of the
consulting firm, (in different countries),
regarding local market conditions around
the industry of interest.
• Interviewing industry experts regarding
the acquisition, growth potential, and
market dynamics.
• Internal debating and discussion around
where the market was going.
Due diligence projects, in my view, offer the
most intellectually exciting work but the worst
work/life balance in the consulting world. You
find yourself working an awful lot because
you are given a very challenging task; to
figure out everything about a company/
market. You also tend to be working for
unusually demanding clients in unusually
demanding conditions and with a very tight
deadline. As a result, I have observed teams
working 18 hour days for several weeks at a
time on projects like these.”
Spirit of Africa:
My Favourite Case at BCG
(Sponsored Content)
One of my favourite cases at BCG was working
for an alcoholic drinks company, whose portfolio
includes a number of very well-known brands of
spirits. Our client already had a global footprint, but
they wanted to expand further and they had asked
BCG to help support their entry into a new African
market, with a population of approximately 50
million. The market and consumer were different
to many of the geographies in which they were
already present and they wanted BCG to help them
understand how they could make their brands a
success in this new, high growth geography.
My first task was to understand the nature of the
local market. The sort of questions I needed to
answer were:
• How large is the market for alcoholic drinks in
this country? How many units have been sold,
and what is the price per unit?
• What sort of product segments are the
bestsellers? Vodka, rum, brandy, whisky etc?
• Which categories are growing or shrinking and
how fast?
• Are local or international brands winning within
each category?
• Why do consumers prefer those brands?
We were looking at a developing market, data was
not easy to get hold of, so being resourceful was
a must! I worked closely with the client teams to
use any information they already had, such as the
price of competitor products sold in local stores
and market data from interviews with local players.
I also had to quickly develop an understanding of
the local products, many of which were very high
volume, but low value.
•
•
Name: Sarah De Zoysa
Role: Consultant, The Boston
Consulting Group, London
To go hand in hand with the market data analysis,
we also needed to understand local consumers; we
needed to be aware of how our client’s products
might be perceived. The sort of issues we tested
included: did people like the bottles, did they like
the branding; how did they perceive the value or
price vs. competitor products they were already
familiar with; how did they react to the names and
product description?
To help to answer these questions, we used
customer focus groups. The groups involved a
number of creative exercises to encourage the
49
participants to discuss their alcohol purchasing and
drinking habits. They discussed where they bought
drinks, what tastes and colours they liked in a drink,
what they drank in which situations and how they
perceived different brands. These sessions helped
us gain insights into the customer mindset. For
example, the group perceived clear spirits in clear
bottles as cheap and poor quality because they
look like low price, local alcohol; but dark colour
spirits in coloured bottles were considered more
expensive, and as something to show off. As for
young people drinking at home, they were likely to
stick to cheaper local spirits and would rarely feel
the need to buy branded products, but when they
went out to a bar or a club, they wanted to order
from a brand or bottle that stood out and would be
used as a status symbol.
Based on our analysis of the market and the insights
we got from the customer focus groups, we worked
to understand which brands within our client’s
portfolio could best fulfil the market needs. We
choose a selection of spirits across a range of price
points and products which fulfilled the needs of
the local population. We had a cheaper dark spirit,
with a strong brand for young people to drink on a
night out, a sweet liqueur for women and couples
to drink on a date and a premium aged spirit in a
stand out bottle, for those looking to signal status
and money.
50
We then developed a plan for how the chosen
brands could best be marketed. From the focus
groups we indentified which brand words would
resonate with the consumer in the local market.
We also saw that the focus groups were particularly
keen on one of our client’s coloured glass bottles,
so we recommended that this be showcased in the
marketing of the product.
“During this case we were looking at
a developing market and data was not
easy to get hold of, so being resourceful
was a must!”
In summary, during our project, we worked with
our client to determine which of their brands
would be most suited to a launch in the new
African market and which key brand themes they
should focus on to get the attention of the local
consumer. As a result of our work, our client has
successfully launched five of their brands into the
market, they have seen a fantastic response from
local consumers and are growing market share. It’s
great to see the impact of my work in real sales!
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(Sponsored Content)
What do you enjoy most about your job?
In my view, the two best things about working
at BCG are the people and the opportunity for
personal development. I get to work alongside friendly, bright and highly
motivated people with fascinating backgrounds
and interests. In my experience the average case
team is made up of 3 or 4 nationalities, including
individuals who in past lives were entrepreneurs,
surgeons or front line soldiers and now run charities
or marathons in their spare time. Despite these
achievements, my colleagues are down to earth
and go out of their way to help each other. This
combination creates a stimulating environment.
“Work/life balance is something
that BCG proactively monitors and
incentivises. But it does vary according
to the project you’re on.”
In addition to hiring great people, BCG has put in
place a number of formalised processes to ensure
that there are ample opportunities to learn. These
include a discussion with your manager at the
start of a project to agree upon your development
objectives, and a feedback session after each
project to identify your development areas.
What is the most stressful part of the job?
It’s stressful to start a case in a new sector in which
you have little (or no) experience, and to know
that you have to become credible with senior
clients within a short period of time. Fortunately
we can draw on a wide range of industry experts
and materials within the firm to help us get up to
speed. On the positive side, this pressure helps to
ensure a steep learning curve.
•
•
•
Q&A WITHA AN ASSOCIATE AT BCG
Q&A with an associate at bcg - sam
Name: Sam Chappatte
Role: Associate, The Boston
Consulting Group, London
Qualifications: BA in Economics,
Trinity College Dublin & MA in
Management from ESCP Europe
Is there a work/life balance?
As a general rule, yes. It is something that BCG
proactively monitors and incentivises. However, the
balance does vary according to the characteristics
of each project. In my experience, it is generally
best on cases with clients and challenges that BCG
knows well and that are based in the local office.
Shorter projects for demanding clients with urgent
needs are more intense, but usually interesting.
During quieter periods (often between cases),
there is no expectation to put in face time – in fact,
you get chastised for it by envious colleagues who
are hard at work!
51
What �soft skills’ have you found useful?
At university, I was under the impression that
communication skills were of the utmost
importance for consultants, given the number of
client presentations they had to make. Whilst these
formal presentation skills are important, I now
believe that being able to communicate clearly and
effectively in informal settings, even within a BCG
team, are of equal importance to the role. Whilst
it can be challenging to adapt to the different
styles of managers, team mates and clients, asking
clarifying questions and reaching out for guidance
early saves time and energy later.
Any advice for the interview process?
My approach to the interview process was to
prepare thoroughly, so that I could be relaxed
during the interviews themselves and come across
as naturally as possible.
52
As a first step, I would recommend reading the
industry guides, blogs and speaking to consultants
to get a feel for what consultants do in practice.
This helps to ensure that you are credible with the
consultant interviewing you (e.g. you broadly know
what would be expected of a person in the role you
are applying for).
Then you need to focus on how to present yourself
& why you want to be a consultant. Whilst this
appears to be the most straightforward part of
the interview, the trick is to structure the way you
describe your experiences and what you took away
from them, in a way that is easy to understand.
Finally, there are the case studies. I found that
I improved at these with practice and that role
playing with friends, alternating between the
interviewer and interviewee was helpful (you learn
in both roles).
For more careers information visit www.insidebuzz.co.uk
(Sponsored Content)
What do you enjoy most about your job?
Easily my favourite part of this job is the variety
of the experiences we have and the emphasis
BCG places on making the most of that variety.
Work at BCG is project-based; you can spend
6 weeks helping a retailer with a market entry
strategy, followed by 3 months implementing a
change programme at a bank. And, indeed, when
you begin working here, you are encouraged to
embrace that variety – to develop new skills and
acquaint yourself with unfamiliar industries. Every
project presents a new, unique challenge, making
BCG a very dynamic place to work.
Q&A WITH AN ASSOCIATE AT BCG
q&A with an associate
at bcg - tyler
“It is important to manage your own
schedule carefully, and to raise your
hand if there is too much on your plate.”
What is the most stressful part of the job?
Starting a new project is pretty stressful. That
same variety that makes this job so engaging also
regularly forces you outside your comfort zone.
Our work requires us to understand our clients and
their industries inside-out, and that can be quite
daunting on day 1!
Fortunately, BCG has extensive resources to help
consultants newly staffed on a project to get up to
speed. These include a library of resources drawing
on insight from previous client work and internal
projects, as well as a network of dedicated experts.
BCG, as an organisation, is all about sharing
knowledge. I have never felt stranded.
•
•
•
Name: Tyler Hill
Role: Associate, The Boston
Consulting Group, London
Qualifications: BA Philosophy, Yale
University & BPhil Philosophy, Oxford
University
Is there work/life balance?
Some projects are more relaxed than others. Even
within a project, some weeks can be quite hectic,
and others relatively calm. That’s simply the nature
of the job.
That said, every manager I have worked with at BCG
has been proactive about ensuring that I always
have time to meet my personal priorities, whether
that be a trip to the opera, dinner with friends,
or time to go to the gym. Open communication
around this point is essential. It is also important to
53
manage your own schedule carefully, and to raise
your hand if there is too much on your plate to
manage feasibly.
What challenges have you come across and
how have you overcome these?
Consulting is a client-oriented business, and many
of our clients are large, complex organisations
with their own cultures, politics, and personalities.
Navigating these organisations and working
effectively with our client counterparts can
sometimes be challenging.
In such situations, I have found that it helps to be
constructive and proactive. Emphasising someone’s
strengths, for example, encourages them to bring
those strengths to the table when you are working
with him or her, and can greatly improve the
productivity of your relationship.
Any advice for the interview process?
Relax! So much of the challenge of the interview is
coming across as comfortable and easygoing. BCG
interviewers are looking for people whom they
would enjoy working with; the likeable aspects of
your personality will have a harder time showing
through if you’re a ball of stress.
Of course, this is easier said than done. The best
way to ensure you come to the interview relaxed
is to be confident. The best way to be confident
is to prepare. BCG is very transparent about the
format and content of the interviews. Familiarise
yourself with all of the materials available, attend
our campus talks and events, and get in touch
with current BCGers who can talk you through the
process. Also be sure to do a mock case or two with
a friend. You can find several on the BCG website.
What �soft skills’ have you found useful?
This is a people business; getting along well with all
types is a key to success.
54
For more careers information visit www.insidebuzz.co.uk
How can you lift the mug off the surface of a table, using only the balloon?
(You may not touch the mug with your hands.)
AN IT CONSULTANCY FOR PEOPLE WITH GOOD IDEAS.
Super geek, people person or business brain?
CHP employs graduates and professionals from many disciplines. Do you
have what it takes to be a top Java programmer? Do you make managing
complex projects look easy? Could your ideas make leading companies
more profitable?
CHP is established in the UK, US, Asia-Pacific and throughout Europe. You
will be based in our London City office and go on to work in a variety of
roles on projects with some of the world’s leading leasing and asset
finance companies.
We will train you so that you’re able to work on any part of our business
change projects, building and implementing our industry-leading software.
You will have an outstanding academic background including a 2:1 degree
or better and a minimum of 320 UCAS points. You will be curious, have a
logical mind, and be confident, ambitious and ready for a challenge.
Starting salary is ВЈ35k and you will join one of our graduate intakes
throughout the year. Find out more about opportunities with CHP
Consulting at www.chp.co.uk/careers.
55
Life as a Consultant at CHP
Consulting
(Sponsored Content)
I chose consultancy because the project-based
work provides the opportunity to solve a variety
of challenging problems while working in a highly
sociable environment. During university summer
holidays I worked as an insurance account handler,
which involved working closely with underwriters
and customers. This experience wasn’t essential for
my current role, but it showed me that I enjoyed
working in a client-led environment and gave me
some useful new skills.
“CHP is a relatively small company, so
I have had lots of responsibility early
on and feel that I can make a real
difference.”
Getting in
I think that throughout the application process my
genuine enthusiasm for CHP helped me to stand
out. I thoroughly researched the company and its
graduate scheme, and this allowed me to focus my
application on the skills I had that I knew they were
looking for.
Project work
On my first project we had to create a new reporting
solution for a European client. My role was to liaise
with staff from various departments throughout
the UK and Scandinavia and design a selection of
reports to satisfy their requirements.
56
For more careers information visit www.insidebuzz.co.uk
•
•
•
•
Name: Emma Tydeman
Job: ConsultantQualifications:
Employer: CHP Consulting
Degree: Mathematics, University of
Bath
More recently, my role for an American client has
been to design and create new functionality for our
software product. These enhancements are needed
to account for complex US tax laws, and have to
match the specific needs of a large organisation.
My day-to-day responsibilities vary between
projects. I might be responsible for designing and
Work/life balance
We usually work from 9.00 am to 6.00 pm. Very
occasionally, when there are important project
deadlines, I’ve needed to work a little later.
However, working late isn’t encouraged and
projects tend to be well planned so it’s not usually
necessary.
Highs and lows
My employer is a relatively small company, so I
have had lots of responsibility early on and feel that
I can make a real difference. Our clients tend to be
large organisations such as banks and equipment
manufacturers: this is exciting because the work
we do has a huge impact on global organisations.
When we reach big project milestones it’s great to
see the hard work we put in really benefitting the
client – it’s always a cause for celebration!
When I started work here I had limited technical
skills, which was tough; however, I’ve found that
the training and support available has made me
feel comfortable with the technical side of things
and helped me to really enjoy this part of my job.
Training and new skills
My first five weeks were spent training. We learned
and practised lots of new skills that were required
when we started our first projects. Day to day, I find
there is lots of support available from colleagues
and always something new to be learned.
A key skill I’ve developed is teamwork. I have worked
in a mixture of teams, from a few consultants to
as many as 30, and I’m often working with teams
of client staff. I’ve learned to adapt to different
team dynamics and to work together to achieve
our goals. I’ve also developed my problem-solving
skills, technical abilities and communication skills.
Life as a Consultant at CHP Consulting
creating a new area of the product for a client,
which could involve discussing business needs
with the client. Sometimes I’m helping a client
understand the accountancy performed by our
product or investigating a problem that a client has
found.
57
Life at CHP Consulting: My Mumbai
Secondment Experience
(Sponsored Content)
I had been with CHP for just under a year when I
was asked if I would be interested in doing a sixmonth stint in Mumbai. During university I had
travelled through India with friends and absolutely
loved it, so the opportunity to go back there – and
get paid for the privilege – was too good to refuse.
I have now been here for five months and it has
more than exceeded my expectations.
Our Mumbai-based client is a market leading
electronics and engineering company that
manufactures a huge variety of equipment, from
nuclear power plants and MRI scanners to mobile
phones. We have worked for a number of years
with this particular client in the UK and Scandinavia
and, on the strength of this relationship, were
chosen as their software provider for their new
Indian venture. Because their equipment can be
so expensive they have an in-house asset finance
business, which their customers use to pay for
their products over an extended period rather than
with a lump sum. CHP provide the software, Alfa
Systems, which our client uses to manage these
often large and complex deals.
•
I •
•
What My Role Involves
My manager and I are the only two CHP consultants
based in Mumbai, making this quite a small team by
our standards – most CHP projects have between
5-15 team members. Being part of a two-person
team, I have been given a lot of responsibility for
somebody with my level of experience. This has
been challenging at times, but I have learnt a huge
amount as a result. The culture at CHP is extremely
collaborative and my manager here is no different;
he has been extremely supportive and I’ve never
felt out of my depth despite the responsibility of
the role.
58
•
•
Name: David O’Callaghan
UNiversity: Trinity College, University of
Dublin (BA); University of Sydney (MSc)
Degree: BA Hons Philosophy; MSc
Economics
LOCATION : Mumbai
JOB TITLE : Consultant, CHP Consulting
am in charge of reporting and management
information which are both key areas for the client’s
business. Reporting is particularly important as the
financial reports which Alfa produces are used by
the client’s senior management to influence key
business decisions. As a result, it impacts all areas
of the business which means that I get to deal with
people of all levels of seniority, from front-end
For more careers information visit www.insidebuzz.co.uk
“Our client’s Mumbai office is staffed by
a great mixture of locals and Europeans
– in any given meeting there might be
people from four different countries all
offering a different perspective.”
A Junior Consultant’s Working Day
The first thing I do when I get to the office (after
gorging myself on the amazing breakfast at the
hotel we are staying in) is check my emails. I am in
constant contact with CHP colleagues based in both
the Asia-Pacific region and in the UK. Reporting
touches all areas of our client’s business. As a result
of this wide remit, I regularly work within areas of
the asset finance industry that are completely new
to me. But there is always somebody at CHP on
hand to provide crash courses in everything I need
to know, be it collections, settlements, funding or
accounting.
After considering the suggestions and feedback
included in my colleagues’ emails, I get down to
preparing for client meetings. These occur most
days and are usually with the client’s designated
experts in areas ranging from risk and credit to
operations and sales. The client will generally
send me a meeting agenda outlining what is to
be discussed. They may, for example, want Alfa
to automatically generate a monthly report to
assess the performance of their sales team by sales
person, margin, volume of deals and asset type.
I need to assess whether their requirements are
feasible and, if so, how much effort will be required
to implement them. In order to determine this I
really need to understand the area of the business
in which the client works.
The client’s staff will often have years of experience
in the industry so it is very important for me to be
up to speed. That said, many of these people, while
being experts in their own fields, will often not be
fully aware of the challenges involved in converting
a functional business concept into an automated
process; highlighting these issues and, hopefully,
overcoming them, is where CHP step in.
What is Really Enjoyable About My Job
What I have particularly enjoyed about this project
is the range of cultures and backgrounds of the
people working out here. Our client’s Mumbai
office is staffed by a great mixture of locals and
Europeans who are assigned out from their
European offices – in any given meeting there might
be people from four different countries offering a
variety of opinions on the best approach to take.
The meetings can occasionally get quite animated,
but my favourite thing about working here is how
people are able to leave their work in the office. It’s
not unusual to see two people practically shouting
at each other in a meeting one minute and chatting
away about yesterday’s cricket results over a cup of
chai the next.
Life at CHP Consulting: My Mumbai Secondment Experience
staff right up to the Chief Operations Officer and
the Head of Risk and Credit of our client’s Indian
office. Currently I am working very closely with the
risk department to develop a set of reports which
they can use to better understand their exposure
to different customers and sectors of the market.
This has given me an invaluable insight into how
big lenders, such as my client, make their decisions.
The people here are extremely sociable, and never
more so than at lunchtime: eating alone is unheard
of. We either head, as a group, to the office canteen
(where you can get a selection of dahl’s, curries
and delicious Indian breads for an extortionate
40 pence!) or, if we have time, out to one of the
amazing local restaurants.
In the afternoon I generally get to work on actually
developing whatever report I’m working on. My
client uses Microsoft SQL Server 2008, an industrystandard data management and reporting tool. I
come from a non-technical background (I studied
philosophy and economics) yet the technical side
of the job is one of my favourite parts. I have
always enjoyed puzzles and problem solving, and
59
I find it extremely rewarding to crack something
which is particularly tricky. The technical training
at CHP is top-notch and as such I don’t feel that
my background has been a hindrance in any way.
In fact, the majority of our consultants come
from non-computing backgrounds, having studied
everything from classics and modern languages to
natural sciences.
I am also currently working with a colleague based
in our London office who is updating Alfa to deal
with India’s complex system of service taxes.
Today I have a telephone meeting at 5 o’clock
to check on their progress and to answer any
60
functional questions they may have. I have seen
this enhancement progress from the initial client
requirements right through to this late stage of
development. It has been extremely satisfying to
watch it grow, as it will make a huge difference to
the client.
That will take me through to six o’clock which
is when we usually leave – we’re pretty good at
managing our time at CHP and it’s rare that we are
required to stay any later. Then it’s back home for
a quick change of clothes before heading out to
explore the city.
For more careers information visit www.insidebuzz.co.uk
(Sponsored Content)
I joined Bain & Company in October 2012 following
a series of interviews with different consulting
firms. What attracted me most to Bain was the
dynamic and outgoing personality of everyone I
met during the process. Bain consultants seemed
intelligent, interesting and humble - people
I would like to work with. I also found Bain
interviews a lot more personable that the rest:
the recruiting team were very responsive and
knew you by name, not candidate number. Each
interview was conversational and interviewers
were very personable, which really showed Bain’s
commitment to helping me succeed.
My Consulting Career – Bain and Company
My Consulting Career - Bain and
Company
“The learning curve at Bain is steep
but it is rewarding and motivating to
work with such ambitious clients and
colleagues.”
My role is mixed but a typical day may involve
obtaining data from clients, analysing it in Excel
(learning tips and tricks from your team) and
creating graphs in PowerPoint to communicate
the findings. After lunch, you may do some market
research using industry reports or conduct a series
of interviews to gain information. Regular progress
updates with your line manager ensure that you
receive the support and input necessary to stay
on track. It also encourages you to communicate
challenges early so that they can be addressed. On a
weekly basis, you will have a personal development
chat, which provides actionable feedback on work
done so far, and a case team meeting to discuss the
overall context of the project and revise the work
plan. This gives you the opportunity to ask any
•
•
•
•
Name: ZOE
UNiversity: University of Oxford
2011 (BA); LSE 2012 (MSc)
Degree: : BA Human Sciences, MSc
Development Management
JOB TITLE : Associate Consultant
questions to the leadership team and is often when
the social event is agreed upon!
Bain follows an apprenticeship model, which
encourages continual learning on the job. When
you join, you receive two weeks training in your
office, followed by ten days of global training in the
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62
US, where you get the chance to meet people from
all other offices around the world. You are split into
small tutorial groups for an action-packed schedule
covering the basic toolkit of data analysis and client
communication. Not to worry- this schedule is
punctuated by several breaks, copious amounts of
food and a chance to party every night! Following
that, you receive training sessions every other
month and there are numerous informal ways to
receive help whenever needed.
of time. While the learning curve is steep, it is
rewarding and motivating to work with ambitious
clients and colleagues. Bain also offers unparalleled
opportunities– those that appeal to me most
include office transfers, externships and flexible
work options. There is always an opportunity to
incorporate your passions and interests into the
workplace - I have enjoyed developing a fundraising
strategy for an educational NGO arranged through
a Bain contact.
What I enjoy most about my job is the exposure
and variety it offers. Bain gives you considerable
responsibility right from the start, which is both
stimulating and empowering. The company invests
a huge amount in your personal development
providing the tools and support necessary to
enhance your impact. I can think of few other
jobs that allow you to engage with senior business
leaders and spans across a range of industries
so early in your career and in such a short space
Although deadlines can be demanding and the job
is tiring, I think the perks significantly outweigh
the costs. I have been pleasantly surprised by the
support of my colleagues and there are always
opportunities to provide upward feedback to make
work more sustainable. Regular events, such as
the Bain World Cup and training sessions abroad,
remind you what a great network of people you’ve
joined when you become part of Bain.
For more careers information visit www.insidebuzz.co.uk
LIFE AT BCG
Part 4: What Comes Next
63
Build SOMETHING Great
At Booz & Company we invite you to join us and Build Something Great.
Build Companies
Serve and shape the senior agenda of the world’s leading institutions
Build Capabilities
Work with our clients to identify and build the differentiating capabilities
they need to outperform
Build Careers
Work in a closely-knit network and develop distinctive and deep expertise
to realize your aspirations at Booz & Company and beyond
If you are interested in learning about career
opportunities with Booz & Company, please
visit us at http://www.booz.com/uk
64
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Booz & Company Inc.
Founded 1914
More than 3,000 staff
members
28 countries worldwide
Consulting is an ideal “springboard” to other
careers. The mix of potential industry and roles is
constrained not by your skill set as a consultant, but
by your preferences.
The roles consultants move on to are incredibly
varied and are very much reflective of personal
interests rather that any kind of restriction based
on qualifications. If you’re not excited at the idea
of becoming a Partner at a consulting firm, make
sure you develop an exit strategy. Consulting firms
will usually be supportive of your decision and if
you focus on building your expertise early on and
plan your departure well, you’ll likely springboard
yourself onto an even better career path. Here’s a
closer look at some of your options:
Graduate school (MBA, JD, masters & PhD)
Many junior consultants apply to business school
while others pursue a Masters / PHD or a law
degree after having completed a few years (1 to
4) of work in Consulting. Your firm may chose to
subsidise your studies, as long as you return and
work for them for a few years. When applying to an
MBA or Masters programme make sure to research
ties between the university or programme you are
applying to and your consulting firms.
Some real life examples of jobs and careers
that consultants have pursued after a few
years in consulting:
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CONSULTING EXIT OPTIONS
CONSULTING EXIT OPTIONS
LBS, Insead, Oxford MBA
PhD at Imperial
Started an internet company
Help run a non-profit
Work in product management for a large
FMCG
Become a CIO of a social media start-up
Manage 200 employees for division of a
FTSE 100 company
Work in strategy and business
development for commodities trading
company PhD in sociology
Run the family business
Work a major fashion designers in Paris
Started an organic farm
Worked in strategy at Formula 1
Partner at a venture capital firm
Joined private equity firm
VP of Marketing for large retail company
Worked in Investment Banking
In charge of global marketing for FTSE
100 company
Moving into Corporate roles predominantly
in FTSE 100, Fortune 500 and FMCG companies
Consultants can also easily transition into strategy
groups at large FTSE 100 / Fortune 500s – from
Coca Cola to BP and HSBC to Unilever. These
multinational companies are constantly on the
lookout for consultants to formulate and optimise
their corporate strategies and consultants fit hand
in glove with roles that require research, analysis,
project development, presentations and personnel
management.
The benefits of roles within these large
multinationals can include shorter hours and
overall better work life balance, a more stable
65
work environment, and the opportunity to develop
s specific set of skills. The tradeoffs, on the other
hand, may be limited career progression, reduced
pay, and being siloed into specific projects.
Entrepreneurship/Starting your own
business/Starting your own consulting firm
Consulting firms are full of entrepreneurial people.
As a consultant you are exposed to different
industries, have a solid network of contacts, come
across a myriad of business problems, and learn
to recommend optimal solutions. Given all of this,
an appealing option is to start your own company.
Consultants can for example raise funds for their
start-up from the partners they worked with and ask
partners to sit as advisors on their new companies’
boards. Bain was for example started by a former
BCG partner! Another option open to consultants is
to join a start-up, as head of business development,
in a strategy or organisational role, or as CIO.
Non-profit consulting
Consultants can also pursue a career in non-profit
consulting; this can take the form or working for
an independent non-profit consulting firm, a nonprofit consulting firm closely tied to a traditional
consultancy (for example McKinsey’s Touch
Foundation or Bain and Company’s Bridgespan)
or an actual non-profit organisation (Feed the
Children, Oxfam, Red Cross etc).
Few would argue that optimising sanitation in
developing countries or increasing the level of
education in Africa is Cleary more exciting than
augmenting the efficiency of production by .5% at a
plastic manufacturing plant in Slovakia. Satisfaction,
work life balance and “doing good” are all pluses of
working as a consultant for a non-profit but cons
do exist and can include reduced pay and benefits,
long hours, and lower work conditions.
66
Public sector and government roles
Some consultants also pursue government and
political careers. Roles can include advising
political candidates, to campaign work and direct
political appointments. The pluses are clear for
those interested in pursuing government careers:
flexibility, prestige and influence but the minuses
are not to be brushed aside: reduced pay, longer
hours, and sometimes uncertain career paths.
Working in private equity/venture capital/
hedge funds
Looking for better pay, prestige, and the opportunity
to work on industry-shaping deals? Then a move
into private equity may be the right option for you.
Lots of management consultants want to transition
to private equity, but keep in mind that there is
usually a bias against anyone from a non-finance
background. So if you’re coming from a consulting
background, you may want to target Private equity
firms with a history of hiring consultants (e.g.
Golden gate capital, Capstone - the consulting arm
of KKR - and Audax) as well as middle-market PE
firms that are operationally-focused and leverage
consulting skill sets well. Larger PE shops typically
look to hire consultants with corporate finance
project work or prior banking experience under
their belt.
Like in private equity, consultants can work for
hedge funds but opportunities may be limited. The
best approach is to focus on funds where your skills
as a consultant are sought out. Macroeconomic
funds, for example, emphasize market analysis and
operational due diligence in investments whereas
specialised funds may not be a good fit.
The list of opportunities goes on... Consultants
can be a great fit for jobs in asset management
and equity research and many have gone to work
for investment banks. And if the corporate world
isn’t your cup of tea, setting up as an independent
consultant can prove a flexible and lucrative career
options.
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GLOSSARY
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A guide to Consulting buzzwords
I heard you’re “on the bench”... Anyway, if you
have the “bandwidth”, “ping me” so we can
conduct a “due diligence” on the “DCF”; No need
for a “deep dive” and let’s not “boil the ocean” but
at least look at a few “paradigms”. Include a “bird’s
eye view” and “benchmark” for finding our “deck”.
Balanced scorecard
Want to work as a consultant? Here is a quick
rundown of the consulting jargon and buzzwords
you’ll need to master in order to keep your head
above water when you’re on the job:
Big 3
80/20 rule
A portfolio assessment tool developed by The
Boston Consulting Group in the early 1970’s. It
is based on the observation that a company’s
business units can be classified into four
categories based on combinations of market
growth and market share relative to the largest
competitor, hence the name “growth-share”.
Also known as the Pareto principle, states that,
for many events, roughly 80% of the effects come
from 20% of the causes. It’s become a rule of
thumb in business; e.g., “80% of sales come from
20% of clients”.
B2B
Business-to-business. Describes commerce
transactions between businesses.
B2C
Business-to-consumer. Business or transactions
conducted directly between a company and
consumers.
Bandwidth
A person’s work capacity, free time, ability to
shoulder additional work. For example: “I don’t
have enough bandwidth to take on any new
clients.”
CONSULTING EXIT OPTIONS
glossary
Is a performance measurement system that allows
organisations to manage and measure the delivery
of their strategy. It considers not only financial
measures, but also customer, business process,
and learning measures.
The top three consulting firms in the industry:
BCG,McKinsey, Bain..
BCG (growth-share) matrix
Benchmarking
Measuring a value, business practice, performance
or other quantity (such as price or costs) against
those of other companies in the industry.
Bird’s eye view
A high level view.
Blank slide
Slides (usually PowerPoint) showing what kind
of analysis is required and what kind of message
should be conveyed, but doesn’t contain the
actual information – yet!
69
Brainteaser
A consulting interview question in which the job
seeker is asked to solve a logic problem.
Boiling the ocean
A widely implemented model for managing a
company’s interactions with customers, clients,
and sales prospects.
An expression used when faced with an impossibly
large amount of data or analysis. Your manager
may let out: “Let’s not boil the ocean!”
DCF
Business process reengineering (BPR)
Deck
The process of reviewing a client’s business
processes, eliminating unneeded or “nonvalueadded” tasks, and then implementing the leaner,
more efficient process.
Bottom-up
When analysing a business, bottom-up involves
analyzing the company’s financial statements
and health, its management and competitive
advantages, and its competitors and markets. It
also means to look at the smallest units possible
to initiate analysis.
Buy-in
Discounted cash flow. The present value of a
future cash flow.
A powerpoint presentation used for
communicating analysis and messages both to
clients and internally.
Deep dive
A thorough, in-depth analysis of a particular topic.
Drilldown
Asking questions to gather more details. E.g.
“Let’s look at the bird’s eye view and then drill
down.”
Due diligence
Agreement, support.
Extensive investigation of a business or person,
typically prior to signing a contract.
Case team
Elevator test
A team working on a consulting project for a
client; usually composed of one partner (or
director), one consultant and two or more
analysts.
Change management
A service where the consultancy helps a company
cope with a period of significant change (such as a
merger, acquisition, restructuring, downsizing).
Circle back
To follow up at a later point in time, usually to
review progress on the current topic of discussion.
Core competencies
The areas in which a person or company excels.
70
Customer relationship management (CRM)
A test of one’s ability to explain concepts in a
short-period of time.
Engagement
A consulting assignment received by a
consultancy.
Enterprise resource planning (ERP)
Processes or software that manage/coordinate
all the resources, information, and functions of a
business.
Experience curve
The principle that a company’s cost declines as its
production increases.
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Global Management Consultancy, sometimes
referring to just the Big 3, sometimes referring
to the Big 3 consulting plus the Big 4 accounting
firms.
Granularity
Refers to the smallest, basic elements that make
up a much larger business problem.
Guesstimate
A type of consulting interview question that
requires candidates to make an educated estimate
(for example: number of pasties sold in the UK
each year).
Implementation
A term for when a consultancy’s advice to a client
is carried out.
Learning curve
The rate at which a consultant gathers company
and industry information needed for a case. The
steeper the curve the better.
Let’s think out of the box
Opportunity cost
A basic economic principle, it’s the cost of any
activity measured in terms of the value of the next
best alternative that is not chosen.
Outsourcing
The process of contracting out a business process,
which an organization may have previously
performed internally, often at a lower cost and
with better results.
Paradigm
Overused lingo for “model” or “framework”.
Pigeonholing
When a consultant becomes overspecialised.
Ping me
A phrase that means to get in touch with another
consultant. Based on the internet tool in which
you send a single packet of data.
Pipeline
Refers to the current and upcoming, ongoing list
of client engagements.
Really means, “Can anyone please come up with
something creative?”
Rockstar
Letter of engagement (LOE)/letter of intent
(LOI)/letter of proposal(LOP)
Starwood Points
A consultancy’s sales pitch to a potential
client that describes the project, delivery and
expectations etc.
On board
Being assigned to a case, engagement, or project.
On the bench/beach
The time between consulting projects, when
a consultant’s workload usually declines
significantly. Downtime.
A GUIDE TO CONSULTING BUZZWORDS
GMC
A fantastic bright employee... a high achiever.
A hotel loyalty points/rewards system popular
with consultants.
Six Sigma
A business management strategy seeks to improve
the quality of process outputs by identifying
and removing the causes of defects (errors)
and minimizing variability in manufacturing and
business processes.
Supply chain
The means and process of physically distributing
goods to the consumer.
71
Synthesise
Blend several learnings together into an
actionable piece of advice or theme. Project
managers may often be heard screaming, “What is
the synthesis?!”
Up or out
Also known as “sink or swim”, this is a promotion
policy that requires consultants/employees to
leave a firm if not promoted within a certain
timeframe.
Value-based management
A consulting strategy, the end goal of which is to
boost shareholder value for the client company.
Work plan
A schedule for completing a consulting
engagement on time.
White paper
An authoritative report or guide that helps readers
understand an issue, solve a problem, or make a
decision.
Workstream
A piece of the compiled document owned by an
associate or analyst.
Writing a deck
Preparing slides for client presentations.
Value-added
defines a product or services adds value to a preexisting product or way of doing things.
72
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ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
A big thank you to our sponsors
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What you’ll Find Inside:
What is consulting? What do consultants do? Is consulting the right career for me? What do I need to know
to ace the case interview? This guide has the answers to all these questions and more.
Whether you’ve got your heart set on a career in consulting or you’re just curious about the industry and
would like to know more, this guide will tell you everything you need to know about consulting, help you
secure an interview with the top consulting firms, give you the tools you need to wow in your interview
and ace the case.
THIS GUIDE COVERS
•The ins and outs of consulting
•Types of consulting firms and consulting projects
•An inside look at the life of a consultant and career paths
•The latest tips and advice for consulting applications and case interviews
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